Saturday, 8 April 2017

DMZ Book 2: Body Of A Journalist (#6-12)

"Fuck. Who do I sound like now?" - Matty Roth

Time for more DMZ.  The premise of the comic is simple, in the near future five years previously a movement arose in the south westerly states of the USA called the Free States powered by in part by a disillusionment with the current governments attention being placed on foreign wars.  They established a capital in Montana and soon found themselves in conflict with the US Government, so a second civil war broke out.  As the Free States Army swept north, bolstered by defecting national guardsmen they finally came to a halt in New Jersey.  After a disasterously handled evacuation, 400,000 people were left inside Manhattan now designated a Demilitarised Zone. As both side glower at each other from either side, the remaining people have to carry on with their lives as best they can.  Book One saw our viewpoint character Matty Roth, a newbie journalist, thrust into the thick of things when an attack on the helicopter bringing his newsteam into the DMZ left him stranded there.  Rescued by a young doctor called Zee, he ended up staying in the DMZ to report on life there for his network Liberty News. With his press pass in one hand and a camera in the other, Matty Roth intends to depict every angle of the DMZ and the people struggling for survival everyday there.  Time for Book Two which contains the five part arc "Body Of A  Journalist", and the single issues "Zee NYC" which gives us some backstory on Matty's first friend in the DMZ and "New York Times" which is an image and text guide to the DMZ that has no story so I won't be covering it.  Lets begin with "Body of a Journalist" then.

It's a hot summer day in a square, people are buying fresh water when someone drives up on a motorbike loaded with IED's and blows everyone up.  Matty was there and narrowly escaped.  Liberty News later report it as one of the deadliest suicide bombings in recent weeks, killing 17 civilians, 3 insurgents and the bomber.   The water delivery was not sanctioned by the local bosses who claim governance over the Little Italy area it was being delivered too and the bombing was retribution.  Now the US Military have resumed aerial reconnaissance despite havinga agreed a no fly zone with the Free States.  "Military spokesman declined comment".
Another day another explosion.
In other news, snipers claimed the lives of six US servicemen.  Also the Pentagon released its official findings regarding a dirty bomb near The Statue Of Liberty, high levels of radiation were detected so people are warned to stay away from the landmark for 120-180 days.

We return to Matty  sitting in the wreckage of the bomb attack.  His cell phone rings and in a rage he hurls it away yelling "just leave me the FUCK alone!" And he stays crouched down, hands clasped over his head in distress.  Later he calms down realising losing his cool in public was not professional.

Matty: "But sometimes I wish it was enough for me to just bear witness to all this shit, all the death, blood and burned bodies.  Sometimes I wish I didn't have to talk so much about it.  Be so brave about it.  Or worry about what I say when I do talk about it".

He fishes his phone out of the slimey puddle of raw sewage it fell in and returns to his apartment.  Liberty News call him and ask if he wants to quit, he's done good work, but that was during a ceasefire, "summer's called 'the killing season' Matty".
 He says as long as they keep his expense account open, "there's nothing here that cash can't buy, even protection".   They agree but say they want to meet him to pass on, new equipment, body armour and a newer phone.  an obviously ailing Matty ends the call and collapses.  Later, after puking in the toilet he gets a call from the "Free Army guy" who got Matty's press jacket back for him.  He wants an interview.

So Matty goes outside and a Free States armoured car pulls up and he is snatched up by them, hooded and driven to the Free States base at the Lincoln Tunnel.  Once through, his hood is removed and he is welcomed to New Jersey. Then the leader says Matty needs to just listen, "this'll be a bit of a reunion for you, I think".  He opens the back of a truck to reveal a shackled Mr. Ferguson, the journalist thought dead in the chopper crash Matty survived in book one.  Both are surprised to see each other.

Matty, meet Viktor Ferguson again.
Matty then throws up.  He tells them who Viktor Ferguson is.  The leader says Matty should go back to his bosses and tell them they have him, and sends him away with a slap on the back, "good boy.  We'll be contacting you".  And Matty goes running back home.

Unfortunately this puts him in the path of US Army snipers, however Matty's hands are tied so they hold their fire. But he is met on the ground by soldiers and obviously ailing is taken to an US Army controlled hospital.  He wakes up to the unwelcome sight of his father by his bedside.  Matty asks where his mom is, she's in Europe.  The army want to go over some questions with him.

They want to know why he initiated contact with the insurgent army, Matty says "it just happened". They want to know how certain he was that it was really Ferguson he saw.  Matty says he heard him talk and he looked OK.  "And then what?" demands his questioner.  Matty says he was let go, his phone was trashed so he had to walk back.
Matty and his Dad.
The next day Matty is well enough to attend a round table with his dad, Liberty News and the army. The Free States (who the US always call insurgents) send them a video confirming Matty's story.  The Senior Military Liason says they don't know why yet, and does Matty remember any more in his dealings with them. Matty snaps that if they have something specific they want him to say, to just tell him. They decide to wait for further contact.

They decide Matty is an asset they can use to get Ferguson back, over the protests of Matty's dad.   /matty tells his dad "seriously, shut the fuck up.... this sudden fake concern is total bullshit and everyon knows it.  I'll do it.  Anything to get the fuck out of his sight."

He's supplied with pills to stave of the infection he has been suffering from, a military grade laptop, new phone, cash, batteries, sim cards and a panic button which he can use if his life is in danger or if he gets Mr. Ferguson away from the enemy.   The female soldier briefing him turns out to be from his home town, called Eve Linden.  When she realises she gives him a hug saying he's a real celebrity.   She gives him her private cell number.  Then Matty is sent back out with orders to wait for instructions regarding Viktor Ferguson.

Matty: "And just like that, I'm back in. On the one hand, i figure I'm doing good, making an impression, getting my stories out there. Hopefully building a career.  On the other, what does it say about them that I'm the best shot they got in bringing Viktor home?"

The United States doesn't negociate with terrorists, but they can through him.  He takes his meds and returns to his flat. Back home he starts to reflect on the coincindence of meeting Eve again, "something's not right". He ponders his new kit and thinks "I am so out of my league".
Meet Wilson.
He goes to see a neighbour, and old Chinese-American called Wilson.  He asks him to come take a look at his stuff and whether it could be bugged. Wilson says it could all be bugged, even the cash, "I think you throw out phone.  Use old laptop just to be safe".  He asks if there is anything, and Matty realises it must be the pills he's been taking.   He tosses them down the loo, "they want a walking tracking device leading them straight to Viktor.  Valuable intelligence asset my ass".

At nine that night Eve phones him saying she persuaded the network to let her be his contact. As theu talk she says that the Free State might be doing it for money, Matty is dubious saying they don't seem to be hurting for equipment. She tells an angry Matty to make sure he takes the full course of drugs.  He ends the call then throws all his new gear in the river. 

He calls Zee and asks her to come over and talk.  She brings medicine for him to flush out his system.  He asks if he'll be OK not taking the drugs and she says he's young and fit and "everyone gets the bug in the DMZ".  He'll build an immunity to it soon.

Outside there are fireworks celebrating the Fourth of July.  The leader of the Free States Army at the Lincoln Tunnel appears out of nowhere and hugs Matty saying he wants to know about his time in the hospital, he also whispers "smart thinking tossing that backpack into the river.  You're starting to think like one of us.  We'll make an American of you yet".
Free State Guy comes to enjoy the fireworks.
 Matty returns to the Lincoln tunnel, not hooded or shackled.  Ferguson sneers at Matty being a big shot now through "blind fucking luck, if you ask me".  He and Matty are inside a truck being driven by the Free States leader who tells Viktor to be glad Matty is negociating his release not some network suit.

Matty calls Eve, and when Viktor calls Matty a prick they take that as proof of life.   The terms of his release are that the Free States get three minutes of unedited airtime on Liberty News, with no rebuttal or commentary.  120 million dollars or equivalent in euros and finally a pullback of snipers, skirmishers, scouts and spies, surveillance and any other personnel to Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, "you will effectively cede the enture west side of Manhattan to the FSA".

Eve says she'll pass the demands on, but there is no way they'll be agreed to. Viktor snipes at Matty saying they'll get him for "aiding and abetting".  Matty tells him to "fuck off" and leaves in a brooding mood.  Back at his flat, Wilson comes to visit.   Matty says he took some of his beer, Wilson has plenty, his son was a beer distributor before the war and his Chinatown warehouse has plenty left.
Pep talk time!
Matty bemoans his position of being used by both sides.  Wilson asks what he thinks is gonna happen, "I dunno.  Probably a lot of shooting" says Matty. He says the deal was ridiculous and provoking.  Wilson asks if Viktor Ferguson is worth it?

Matty: "I guess he's a symbol.  The symbol is worth it? Maybe.  He's kind of an asshole, but he's, like, this icon.  I watched him when I was a kid. I have a hard time thinking they're just gonna sacrifice him"

Wilson: "Heh... symbol... You're the symbol now".

Matty says he's probably a traitor, he isn't a real journalist he "just scammed his job". Wilson says people like Ferguson become icons becaus they are given primetime. Wilson says Matty is a throwback to the days when journalists investigated stories, stuck their necks out, not just read off a teleprompter.

Wilson says Viktor got old and scared.  Is Matty scared?  Matty says he is of dying.  But is he scared enough to kiss Liberty New's ass? "Fuck no" says Matty.  Wilson says if he stays that way, doing the job on his own terms, "people see and respect that". 
Prophetic nightmare.
Later that night Matty has a nightmare where Eve Linden stabs him in the back and Zee comes to his aid.  He wakes up and heaves down the lavatory again.  We then get two fairly dense pages of information the outbreak of the war as he reads Wilson's collection of the New York Times leading up to the invasion of Manhattan.  In brief, there was an uprising and government formed in Montana while there were wars being waged in four different countries and that was what was being objected to.

People were in denial, "they laughed at the idea of this redneck army in pickup trucks.  But the laughing didn't last long".  What was left of the National Guard either left them alone and quit or joined up.  Soon the Free States Army controlled all the National Guard bases with their Homeland Security funding.  "They got bigger and stronger exponentionally as they headed east." 

By the time the US army returned from the Middle East, the FSA covered a large part of the USA.  The first clash was at Allentown, PA.  But everyone was so exhausted and demoralised, most didn't even fight. "They'd had enough fighting".  Pilots refused to bomb smalltown America and the Pentagon hadn't had time to wage a propaganda war painting the FSA as traitors.  By the time they did, the FSA was closing on the Hudson river and with both sides organised the war started properly.

Matty: "There are no borders or frontlines for this war.  It's completely unconventional.  Save for the DMZ, this war's fought in bits and pieces all over the country.  The Free States are an idea, not a geographic entity.  The same asymmetrical warfare that bogged down the US Military overseas is happening here.  Five years later and no one knows what the hell anyone really stands for.  It's just a survival thing now."

Next day he and Zee eat dinner in a small restaurant.  He says he has some questions to ask her.   He wants to know why everyone didn't leave Manhattan, it looked like there were plenty of evacuation routes and plenty of warning.  Zee says that was how it should have worked "in theory".  But the people manning the public transportion just took off.  If you had a car or money you were good, "if you were poor, you were fucked."
Zee and Matty chat over dinner.
The army shut the bridges and tunnels down after four hours. People tried to swing, or sneak past roadblocks, "they probably didn't make it."  There was a token effort made to help, "but they weren't really giving a shit".  She says she bets Matty didn't see any refugees in his town.  Matty says they were told everyone was offered safe passage and the ones who stayed wanted to fight for the FSA. "Figures" says Zee.

Then Matty gets a phonecall from Eve, who tells him in no way will they agree to the FSA's terms.   And worse they aren't going to counter-offer.  This enrages Matty who can't believe Viktor is being abandoned like this.  She tries to get him to leave the DMZ, "the shit is seriously about to hit the fan".

Then Matty stops talking to her and asks the man running the restaurant to turn up the Liberty News broadcast on the TV.  It tells everyone watching that the FSA have Viktor and are also targetting Matty Roth, attacking him and that he only just escaped with his life.  They will not give in to terrorists and are praying for Matty and Viktor's safe returns and "swift justice to be applied to those responsible for his capture and detention".

Back on the phone to Eve he rages at her, she says they needed an excuse to attack the FSA all out, "and you and Viktor are it!"  Then helicopters arrive, Matty says they made him swallow a tracking device.  Zee says it's his fucking phone.  The army threaten to open fire in order to rescue Matty, but he and Zee run.
Black helicopters are always sinister.
Later Zee looks over Matty who is curled up in the foetal position with concern.  He's sick and weak and Zee and a friend help walk him to her flat.  As he wakes up woozily 20 hours later, Zee tells him the Tv says he's dead.   Liberty are calling for full on military action before Viktor dies too.  Matty asks how she can be so calm about it.

Zee: "Because this is how it works, Matty. I'm an insurgent. The FSA are terrorists.  We eat rats and pigeons.  We hate America.  You name it.  They told you all that and you believed it.  And now you're dead.  Deal with it."

She tells him he should be more worried about the military reaction which will probably kill thousands.  He asks what can he do about it?  She says this whole thing has everything to do with you, "you don't get that yet?"

She then reassures him he doesn't have a tracking bug in his stomach, he's just paranoid because he's sick, "you have a lot to figure out, and you need a clear head."  After she rehydrates him he leaves and mooches through the street ruminating on how weird it is to see himself dead on TV.  Then a gang of people attack him.  Before they hurt him they get gunned down by a young Chinese-American man and his gang who say Wilson sent them to retrieve him.
Wilson's family to the rescue.
Wilson is the man's grandfather, "we all feel an attack is imminent, of which you are both the cause and the remedy". Liberty News meanwhile is announce an build up to an attack on the FSA if they don't release Viktor Ferguson.  Wilson comments that annoucing Matty being dead means they cut off a source of dissenting information coming out of the DMZ.  But they'll need his body for proof "so you need to fix this before they fix you".

Matty realises to confirm he isn't dead he has to talk to the FSA.  Wison doesn't think it's a good idea but Matty says he needs to finish the deal, have the FSA make the US an offer they can't refuse.  Wilson says Matty is the symbol and Viktor is old news, but if he thinks negociation will work, go for it.  He hands Matty an untraceable phone and his grandsons will get him to the west side safely.

Once on his own he realises there is something liberating about being dead. He climb to the top of a tall building and thinks of all the ways he could  be killed.  He is going to stay and count to 1000, if nothing happens he knows he's not bugged.  He isn't so he goes to meet the FSA at the Lincoln Tunnel.  He tells the leader there they have to talk about Viktor. Unfortunately someone inside the FSA there is a traitor and let him out.

The leader and Matty get in a vehicle and go chasing after him.  He calls Zee and tells them to block the path of the humvee carrying Viktor or he'll get over the bridge into US custody and they'll have no way to prove he's alive.  They humvee reaches the blockage, there are also US helicopters escorting it. 
And so ends Viktor's life.
Viktor gets out and runs... and a sniper in one of the US army choppers shoots him through the head.  Matty, Zee and the FSA leader can only look down in horror, "we gotta out of here.  All hell is about to break loose."

The US Army start bombing the DMZ.  People gather in the subway to take shelter from the missile barrage.  Someone asks for Matty Roth, it's a woman who works for an another network.  Matty says his exclusive is blown if she is here but there is also a way out of this mess now.

The woman is Kelly Connolly of Independent World News. Zee is suspicious of her wandering into the DMZ and just happens to find him and offer the perfect solution.   Matty says his dad loathes IWN, he called them "progressive".   But his mum used to watch it before the war.   So he thanks Kelly for pissing his dad off.  
Introducing Helen Connolly.
She says she found a fixer who smuggled her into the DMZ.  Her Toronto bureau is interested in Matty especially now Liberty have no use for him.  Matty says because of the information he has they'd be making a serious enemy of Liberty News.  He shows some pictures to her and she can only say "shit!".

The bombing stopped and the ground invasion began.  But Matty and Kelly set up a laptop and phone to broadcast the photos Matty took of Viktor being alive until the US Army shot him and images of Matty to prove he's alive.   He gets ready to transmit.  But first he rings Eve and tells her what he's about to broadcast, she says they'll never air it, he says they are not the only network with a journalist in the city.  Eve threatens to sue him and whoever airs the reports.  "Stop trying to scare me" responds Matty. Eve then says maybe they can cut a deal.

Matty: "You sent me in here a week ago to cut a deal. Now hundreds of people are dead including Viktor, and you're invading the city.  No more fucking deals."

Eve loses her shit saying "this is war, Matty.  Capital W-A-R and that is way the fuck bigger than you, or me, or Viktor, or any of your grubby little friends in the city".  They will win the war and either they help or will be erased.

She keeps threatening him, saying they'll hunt him down and she is wasting her fucking time handling a dead man.  Then Kelly speaks to her, and tells her she is "holding in my hands the images that will bring your sleazy network down."  And it'll be on the air in a few minutes.  Then Colonel Harriman comes on the phone, he wants to know if the images of Viktor have been transmitted yet. When told now, he asks for their terms.
The laptop is mightier than the tank.
Matty tells them to pull back the troops and go back to the terms of the ceasefire.  Cancel his Liberty contract but retain the possibility he can file reports as a freelancers.  He alse needs to be announced as being alive and the FSA never threatened him and Vitkor.  Finally he wants things made right over Viktor, the Colonel says heads will roll for it.  Matty says he's keeping copies of the photos as life insurance, that's non-negotiable. All of this is agreed to.

Matty: "I learned that day that some thing are more powerful when they're kept secret. But in the face of an all-out invasion, I needed to cut that deal... This is all because of me. Just my presence in the DMZ is volatile and affects my friends as much as it affects me.  I have a responsibility.  To my friends and everyone else.  I've been in this city almost a year... and now I finally feel like I'm a part of it"

A few days later things are back to normal in the DMZ.  Kelly and Matty chat, Matty says he knew Kelly would have killed to air those photos, but she understands he needed to protect his people and she would have done the same.  Kelly says the place is amazing, it doesn't feel like America, it doesn't belong to either side.   There is a new tribe and culture and she wonders what will happen to it when the war ends.

Matty says when he first arrived he thought it was a city full of lunatics, that how it looks like from an outsider perspective.  But once inside everyone is normal and that's what he wants to show people.  "this is a war of extremes, pushing against each other.  But the stories lie in the middle.  Here in the city.  That's the interesting stuff".  

This arc then ends with a Liberty News report annoucing the withdrawal of the troops, the fact Matty is still alive and that Viktor isn't.  The report then also lays groundwork for a future arc with a story about private firm  called "Trustwell" who will be involved in a reconstruction project despite all the complaints against them. 
We are also shown Matty in bed with Kelly.  Kelly says Zee likes him, Matty isn't sure and they go back to sexing. The next morning her fixer takes Kelly away, and Matty for the first time feels homestick. "But things could be so much worse" he broods "And I have a lot of work to do."

"Zee NYC" is the next story, not drawn by Riccardo Burchielli this time but an adequate Kristian Donaldson. We begin with when Zee first met Matty telling him about what she does in the DMZ, makes visits, holds clinics, she used to be a med student.  Then we flash right back to before the war.  Zee is catching some sleep in the hospital she works in when she is called  Her hair is ordinary and brown and she is in a pink hospital uniform.

She's called to a scene of carnage, there had been a bombing and several people have been brought in suffering grave wounds.  She reassures one of the patients but he calls her a "fuckin' bitch" and dies, much to her surprise.  Later she sits quietly on the stairs and has a cry.
Zee the pre-war med student.
The news says Manhattan residents are choosing sides and the NYPD can't keep up.  Hospitals are struggling as all public services suffer major desertion rates.  Bridges and tunnels are gridlocked and there is no plan from City Hall, the airports are in chaos, "there is little to do but sit tight".

Outside Zee sees a cop beating a man who needs a medical attention, she tries to help the man but the cop threatens her with his gun.  He says she must tell him what side she is on or he'll blow her brains out. Reluctantly she says "America" and he says "good girl".  Then someone shoots him in the back of his head.

She sits in her apartment and wonders what to do, she is able to make a short phonecall to tell her mum to go upstate.  Later there is a huge explosion on one of the bridges out.   In hospital she tries to save someone but fails, she can only think to herself "it just never ends, it never ends never ends..."

There is then an address from the US President.  He says the US with stay as one, "we've gone to war before to preserve the dream of the Founding Fathers, and we'll go to war again".   He says he has given his commanders leave to take whatever steps they must to eradicate the insurgency. "God Bless America.  You traitors can go to hell".

Later an evacuation of all staff of the hospital is ordered, and they'll be sent to military hospitals.  Zee can't believe it, who will look after those left, they'll never be able to evacuate everyone.  As we are shown images of people bundling into train cars and surging across bridges. But over that wew get Zee's thoughts about how she intended to stay, because "I wanted to help".
As she ruminates on how the evacuation failed, she cuts her hair short and dies it bright blonde.  She's frightened.  The city silent and she began to feel like a different person.

Zee: "We all did - we were the abandoned, the neglected the left- for-dead resident of the greatest city on the planet. And I was here because I wanted to be here.  I felt oddly proud of that."

As the bombing starts she goes out in the streets to find safer shelter.  She rode it out in a bodega, one of the people there was Jamal, a third year architecture student at NYU.  They spent nine days hiding in that store while the ground war was fought until both sides pulled back for a temporary ceasefire. They expected the war to start again, but the city broke the war's momentum, "the one bit of this country that neither side could claim.  This is the DMZ.  We live here.  We'll never leave it".
New York Endures

And apart from issue #12 which is really a recap and guide to the DMZ so far, that brings this volume to a defiant end.  This is a very exciting storyline. It shows how much power Matty is starting to wield in the DMZ as new character Wilson drums into his somewhat reluctant head.  We get some background on how the war started even though we still know nothing of the Free State's Ideology and we see just what lengths Matty will go to defend the people he's come to love.  The Viktor photos could have been a huge journalistic scoop, but would probably sparked an even worse war than the one that was in the offing.  The fact Matty with help is able to prevent the DMZ becoming all out warzone using the power and threat of journalism is very inspiring.  There is a lot in that storyline about the difference between an old icon like Viktor who doesn't get his hands dirty and Matty who lives the life.  Once again the US comes out of this story rather badly, the FSA also remain an unknown quantity, we still don't even know any of their names.  Kelly's comments about the DMZ feeling different and not like America anymore is testement in a weird way to the survival instinct and need to form communities human beings have no matter what the circumstances.  Zee's story backs this up.  She didn't abandon Manhattan, she changed her appearance to match the new person she felt she'd become to match the new city Manhattan was becoming and went about doing what was right over the years the DMZ survived and flourished. Stay tuned for more DMZ in a few days time.


  1. I like how this series always sets me off on one of my mental wiki walks. Every paragraph gets me thinking of something new. So, in no particular order...

    Zee reminds me of Cabby from Escape from New York. The ones who have chosen to stay. She also has plenty of real life counterparts; especially in the medical community. In the past as well as today, conflict zones are full of doctors and nurses who risk everything to keep essential medical services functioning at some level. And with it the tensions of who do you help? If you go full Hippocratic Oath then you get into that situation where you may be assisting the 'bad guys' in retaining combat effectiveness. See any episode of MASH for details.

    And speaking of dilemmas, the old question of whether it's better to break a story or sit on it. Do journalists have an obligation to print the truth regardless of the consequences, or should they self censor? And when do you stop being an objective reporter and become a mouthpiece for whoever is using you for propaganda? Again it's an old question but still a contemporary one.

    So it's less important in this story I think as to how we got here, it's the exploration of these issues that's interesting. I can see why the writer originally wanted to set this against a real world background. But as these issues are universal it perhaps works even better in an allegorical setting. Which leads nicely to a final point..

    I'm eternally grateful to you for introducing me to those high brow vidcasts. The Coriolanus one was particularly brilliant because it pointed out that the setting is not actually Rome but "a place calling itself Rome". And that that's a deliberate choice to show that the setting could be anywhere. The themes will play out again and again throughout history and geography. There'll always be places calling themselves Rome and really this story could just as easily be set in "a place calling itself America". It doesn't have to be the real one, and in a way it's better that it isn't. The themes and characters here will reoccur time and time again. They're a universal part of the human condition.

  2. I need to catch up with Brows Held High, I've been watching the segments of a programme called "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" which are funny but also paint a pretty grim picture of the state of things like the US Infrastructure, medicine, prisons and so on. Worth seeking out.

    It's good to know Zee is representative of real medical personnel. I have nothing but respect for people who chose a career caring for others, my own brush with death caused me to really pay attention to doctor's and nurses and just how kind and driven they were. So it makes sense many would risk their lives keeping people healthy in warzones.

    I did like the discussion of the motivations behind journalism here. Often journalists are depicted as morally bankrupt and people who will break a story no matter what the cost. So it's refreshing to see them as heroes for a change.

    Hope you're feeling fit and fully recovered :)

  3. I remember John Oliver vaguely from when he was on stuff like Mock the Week. Then he did that piece at the Obama election. "of course he's going to let us down, but let's just be happy right now". Funny how well Brits can do abroad. Must be the accent (my usian friends love mine :-) Of course they also think I know the Queen)

    As for medics there's things like medicine sans frontiers of course, but it's also really common for the locals to stay. So Zees story is very authentic.

    Ah "ethics in journalism". I could tell you some stories from my time at the sun and news of the world. But then I'd have to go to prison. (just kidding! I did *Not* know what was going on. You know how lackadaisical I am. That's totally believable right?)

    And yes thank you, fully functioneeert as the Germans would say.

  4. It's bizarre to see him so appreciated, the top Youtube comments under his videos (snipped from the full episodes which air on HBO) are always very positive. I just remember him from the episodes of Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive from 2005 kicking about my Zen player. Anyway, I was sent to his first video via Bad Women's Anatomy which was on the ghastly state of US Sex Education, well worth a look. Then I binge watched the rest over the weekend and ended up feeling like the USA is some kind of dystopia now.

    I believe if you'd known anything dodgy was going on you'd have done something. I'm pretty lackadaisical too, I sort of blunder around not noticing things going on around me until much later. I've heard the words "Sophie. You seriously didn't know?" more than once in my life :D

  5. Actually here's the Sex Education one, enjoy!

  6. I thought periods just made you good at tennis and roller skating behind dogs. Didn't know it improved your bowling skills too. I'll have to watch put for that next time we're picking teams "You're a bit tetchy tonight, you can be on my side"

    If it was up to me sex education would just be a load of Mapplethorpe photos. "If you can get abs like that you'll do ok whoever you fancy"

    I'm always the last to know anything that's going on. A friend once expressed disbelief that I hadn't realised she was going out with a particular person. "Oh hang on, is that why you have the same phone number?"

  7. That assertion did make me lol. As I've said before, when the menstruling actually starts, you have cramps but usually the mood swings have gone. For me, it's when I'm at peak-PMT that I could bowl a full game full of strikes, punch a train unconscious on the way home and finish the day crying at videos of kittens chilling with baby owls.

    Ah Robert Mapplethorpe. There was a man who knew what to do with a bullwhip. Our sex education was pretty pathetic, but at least they knew abstinence would get the teacher laughed out the classroom.

    My clueless "thing" is my utterly broken gaydar. It's amazing I managed to have any relationships. I was much more successful picking up women in chatrooms than I was nightclubs where I always managed to find the straight girls there. Bah.

  8. That's a very evocative image. You have a lovely turn of phrase. Don't punch trains though. I had a minor encounter with a Tube train. Trust me, they'll win.

    Your arty namesake has terrible gaydar; even for a straight girl. She used to get her hair cut by a lass in the market who was not only clearly gay but also had the hots for arty friend (although further observations would suggest that wasn't necessarily exclusive). Artgirl just couldn't see it though. In the end I took her sister along to watch. "Are you sure?"

    "Sis, she was literally rubbing her tits on your head!"

    Artgirl does attract the ladies though. I'll have to send you a photo; see if you can see why. We did you occasionally cash in on that. The landlady of a really cool pub fancied her a bit so we always used to send her to the bar when it got packed. "Would it kill you to show a bit of cleavage? It's like four deep at the bar"

    Mapplethorpe was brilliant. But next time I'm just gonna get my passport photos from one of those little kiosks. Still, they do say you're not supposed to smile.

  9. I quite like trains so I wouldn't really pick a fight with one. Funnily enough though there is a videogame where you fight a possessed train with a martial arts character. He friggin' suplexes a train! games are great.

    Shame on you exploiting your friend like that :D Well I used to go to gay pubs a lot and because I was the only one sober after a couple of hours I usually ended up going to the bar trying to remember everyones drink order.

  10. Heh, I'd feel guilty but for all the scrapes she's gotten me into. Including but not limited to:

    Getting her off in court. Then she ran in and said "Sorry I'm late. I am guilty but..."

    Crashing her car then running off leaving me to deal with the police (x2)

    Taking me on a surprise visit to an Irish pub (when I was wearing a British Army top) and introducing me to her new musician partners, including Bobby Sands brother.

    That one worked out quite well. The landlady is the living embodiment of Red Sonja and her first words to me were "You're brave". So she's forgiven for that one.

    But we have left a trail of devastation behind us over the years. As the saying goes "You can take her anywhere twice. The second time's to apologise."

    She is one of my best mates though. Sent you an email so you can check her out. And coincidentally she's just called to announce she's at my house (I love her impromptu visits, that means there'll be yummy food waiting. Or I'm taking her to a restaurant. It's a 50/50 thing)

  11. She sounds AWESOME! Reminds me of a short but highly eventful friendship I had with an ex-British Army soldier who I used to go pub crawling round Manchester with. He drank, I didn't we got barred from several establishments for generally raucous behaviour. Sadly it became clear he had serious PTSD (was a military policeman in Northern Ireland and had seen some grim stuff) and wouldn't seek help outside of the bottle. I hope he ended up in a better place than when I last saw him, he was a sweet guy. And I let him live in my bedsit for a few months when he got kicked out of his place, yes the only person I ever lived with outside of my family was a six foot two, blonde, blue-eyed adonis who kept me up all night... playing Tekken 3.

    Guests who bring food are always the best guests. My mum always shows up with cake she's made, her cake is the only treat I eat now. She's made Simnel cake for Easter (she's not religious she just uses any excuse to make a cake) and as I am a huge fan of marzipan I can't wait to get my teeth into it.

  12. Tekken 3 sounds like the Yorkshire sequel to those Liam Neeson films.

  13. lol, actually it's a one-on-one fighting game that got me interested in taking up Jeet Kun Do. There are lots of fighters and the more normal ones (ie: not the kangaroos or pandas, or robots, or space ninjas) have specific arts. So it's quite cool being able to pit a teenage girl Wu Shu fighter whos attacks are light but very fast against a big beefy wrestler who might be the slowest in the game but when he hits boy does the other character feel it. ALso two of the characters are based on Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan so you can pit the two icons against each other. Man we had fun playing that. One thing I don't like about being outside of Manchester is I can't just rock up at a friend or my sister's house for an evening of fighting games. I mean you can play them online, but that's nowhere near as fun.

  14. I've seen the Tekken film. I quite enjoyed it. Had a nice Blade Runner aesthetic and some cool fight scenes. I like the sound of the game. It's funny, I still have a bit of a hangover view from an old computer advert. I think it might have been for the Dragon 32. But anyway it had a kid saying all the things you could be, including "you could be a gladiator!". Even at the time I was yelling 'no, you're just pressing buttons!'

    But one computer game I did spend a lot of time on back in the 90s was computer golf. It's ironic cos when it comes to real golf I'm very much in the "good walk ruined" camp. But I loved the PC versions. Especially when they became more about club selection and choice of stroke rather than just timing how good your button pressing reactions were.

    So I can imagine a fighting game that was sophisticated enough to require a bit of tactical thinking rather than just button mashing would be fun. Nothing can compare with the real thing still, but I could get off on the vicarious experience. I'm glad it inspired you to do it for real though.

    Hah, speaking of which, I asked on a Krav group for examples of fictional female Krav practitioners. Jessica Jones sister is one btw. But anyway someone mentioned some real women. I made a joke about one of them being scary to think she's real (she is just that good) forgetting she's a member of that group. She's offered to kick my head in to prove she's real. That's kinda sweet. She could easily do it though.

    But hopefully I'll get to take you on at Tekken some time. You can do your JKD and hopefully there's a Krav or equivalent practitioner in there. Failing that I'll be one of those lasses from DOA.

  15. There's been a few Tekken films, my favourite is the overwrought anime one that filled in some plot between games two and three. With counters parries, reversals and reverse-reversals modern fighting games are like chess games. You always think several moves ahead and try and pysche your opponent into a mistake you can punish hard while being wary of being suckered yourself. Watching top tourney players games is almost as exciting as the real thing.

    Tekken Tournament 2 is the most recent iteration I have though I might have an Xbone by the time we meet and Tekken 7 will be a fast purchase as always. I can't recall if Krav Maga is in it, there are some western martial arts like wrestling, boxing and capoeira so next time I boot it up I shall check.

  16. That does sound pretty cool. Oh no, you're turning me into a gamer. Hang on a second; just need to post something abusive on reddit. I do like the films derived from fighting games though, so I suppose I should like the source material. Heh, now I've got the Mortal Kombat tune in my head.

    Interestingly lots of research confirms that visualising fighting techniques is almost as useful as actually practising them (works for a lot of things). So playing the games, especially if they're realistic, is technically training.

    Capoeira is a weird thing. I know the purported history, I'm still not sure about the practicality though. Maybe it started off real enough, but it does seem like Brazilian wushu now. We had a Brazilian guy over a couple of summers ago. He was a top BJJ guy but he knew Capoeira too. He could do some really flash moves but he said he'd never use them in an actual fight. We had some interesting Krav v BJJ contests. It was useful for both of us. BJJ doesn't provide any striking and Krav is (by design) deficient in ground work. So I like to train BJJ to fill that gap. And he got some percussive skills.

    BJJ as a practical self defence system is controversial. I know some top BJJ folks (including guys from the Favelas) and they like to add some striking skills for real works applications. Going to the ground is fine if it's one on one and it's a nice surface. But not something to do in the street. Some very basic BJJ techniques are really useful in the sexual assault context though. It's interesting that 'pulling guard' ie having someone between your legs is considered to be a very *safe* position in MMA. So much so that they had to change the rules in UFC when people started doing it when they wanted a rest.

    When we meet up I'll have to show you all that stuff. The Krav ground syllabus is pretty basic. It's all about eliminating the threat really quote then getting back up asap. So it only takes a couple of hours to go through everything. I'd be very interested to see how it compares to JKD especially as that seems to be very much about striking rather than grappling.

  17. Sorry about the delayed reply, been in bed all day feeling like someone is jamming a knife through my eye. I very rarely get headaches but when I do they are humdingers. Feeling Ok now though.

    Capoeira is interesting. My only experience is fighting it in Tekken. The capoeira characters are very beginner friendly because you can easily string lots of kicks together and they keep the opposing player at range. Once you learn to fight a bit better you learn you have to play an offensive game and get right in their face with pokes to stop them being able to wind up a kick. So they go from being a tough character to fight against to a total joke who can only survive via a small selection of elbow pokes and throws. Also my fave character is the wrestler King who has a kick reversal which allows you to grab one thrown at you with the correct timing (not as easy as it sounds, you only have a few frames to pull it off in and if you miss them you're pretty much gonna get your arse kicked badly) and then flip the hapless opponent across the screen. Satisfying.

    I'm definitely interested in seeing some Krav in action. As you know, JKD is another discipline taught as self defence on martial art so we're both on the same page there. JKD is pretty light on grapples, most of the very close quarter stuff is elbows and knees, although he did teach us how to armlock someone sitting on your chest and how to perform a choke-hold from the rear.

  18. You poor thing! I think the only girl who gets in more scrapes than you is that plastic lass with the leg braces who stands outside the chemists (do they still have those?)

    I'd love to hear more about JKD. I'm a bit of a Bruce fanboy anyway, but I also like the general ethos. As mentioned before its very similar to Krav in mindset. We've adopted some of it. We use that chin sao sticky hands thing in training. Also chain punching and that 'straight blast' as an emergency back up measure for when you're getting wailed on.

    The ground stuff you've mentioned sounds a bit similar too. Although we tend to go for neck snappy stuff rather than arm bars for basic self defence. It's weird, but in Krav the less destructive stuff is saved for advanced levels. That does make sense as it's generally easier to inflict ott violence than the more subtle control stuff. So it's mainly damage them until they stop breathing or you can run away for most folks. All the proportional responses and restraints etc is the advanced police syllabus stuff. I can show you a few good chokes though and more importantly how to get out of them. That's the thing though, if people do know how to get out of them they're not that useful. Hence the more percussive preference.

    But I see you have a new post. Cool. I'm really disorientated at the moment. Had an annoying piece of work hanging over me for months. Finally got round to it last week and today had the relevant court hearing. Which we won. So it's really weird not having that niggling away in the back of my mind. So a nice bit of reading is just what I need. Ta.

  19. Thanks, I soldier on through *stiff upper lip*

    Interesting you say that the aim is to find a space to run away, my JKD teacher told us that if you could run away, run away. If you did have to get into a fight, take your opponent down fast, the longer the fight goes on the more likely you are to get hurt. The make-up of the class was interesting, it was about half young women like me want practical self defence and the other half huge nightclub bouncers looking for the quickest way to take down a furious person on PCP.

    It was a brilliant class, we got told how to perform a headbutt so you don't get teeth marks in your head and a lot of it was focused on taking out the joints, aiming for knees, elbows and throats and so on. I remember the sticky hands stuff, it reminded me a lot of the defence, counter, defence of fencing. There was quite a bit of footwork too, a mixture of boxing and fencing movement, it was quite empowering nimbly dancing round a big burly dude. If I lived in Manchester I think I join again and just power through the back pain. But Macclesfield is my home for now.

    I know what you mean about getting disorientated. My sister is about to drop sprog number two so she hasn't come over and mum's changed her visiting day to the weekend. I'm v.confused. Glad you won your case though. Enjoy the new post, it was a bugger to type up because so much of it was big chunks of text over montages.

  20. There's a guy I love (in a very hetero blokey way obviously) called Master Wong. He's hilarious, almost a caricature of crazy Chinese martial arts stereotypes. He really knows his stuff though. But he did a video on how to defend against a mugger. Theres a big build up, then he just hands over his wallet. We loved that. And it is of course the best advice. I tell people imagine you were bleeding to death from a knife wound. How much would you pay not to be? More than the 20 quid in your wallet I'll bet. So de-escalation, compliance and running away are always great options if available. Ironically people find it easier to do that when they actually do get the badass skills. It's a combination of hearing from all the top practioners that that's what they'd do and not having anything to prove so ego doesn't get in the way.

    Knowing what to do, and having tested those skills against realistic attacks is paradoxically a very calming thing. It's much easier to back down from a confrontation if you can smile to yourself and just think of the 36 ways you could have killed the perp if you'd been bothered. We also notice with the women's groups that just training reduces PTSD symptoms because it removes the 'helplessness' aspects, even after the event.

    I suppose it's a bit like nuclear weapons. Possessing the ability is sometimes enough in itself. Especially when you start to give off that 'not worth it mate' aura. It's funny how predators can sniff out who's vulnerable and who's a hard target. Of course, there are a few 'signals' you can consciously learn.

  21. I've always felt I must have that "not worth it aura" all my life. I have never felt or been physically or verbally threatened by men or women in my entire life. Reading what some women go through on WHTM has made me thankful for this because it seems a life lived in fear is very debilitating and I have huge sympathy for people who are frightened like that.