Friday, 14 April 2017

DMZ Book 3: Public Works (#13-17)

"It had been awhile since I was a nobody" - Matty Roth

A quick recap of the premise behind DMZ.  At some unspecified time in the mid-noughties a protest movement arose in South West USA calling themselves the "Free States".  The installed their own government in Montana and began working their way east while a unprepared US goverment scrambled to get their troops back from the Middle East to fight them.  The Free States Army made it to New Jersey and after a disasterous evacuation, around 400,000 people were left stranded in the island of Manhattan.  The Free States Army (FSA) and the US Army clashed there, before both withdrawing in a sulky ceasefire leaving the FSA on the East side and the US on the west and a Demilitarised Zone in the middle where the inhabitants make the best of things despite being under constant fear of war breaking out again, which it nearly did in Book 2.  Journalist Matty Roth has become something of a spokesman for the DMZ, now filing his stories to anyone who'll take them rather than just Liberty News. In this book we're going to see some undercover journalism from him as he joins the company Trustwell Security, a firm who has won a lucrative contract to rebuild Manhattan, but Matty has suspicions that something nefarious is going on and he's going to find out what, no matter how far he has to go.  So without further ado, "Public Works".

The story begins with a news report over images of Matty getting ready for his new job at Trustwell Inc.  We are told the U.N has peacekeepers in the DMZ, who traded small arms fire with Trustwell's security forces.

News Report: "No casualties were reported, but this most recent incident further complicates the already uneasy situation both groups find themselves in... providing security for the reconstruction, but answering to different authorities with very different mandates".

Trustwell are under contract from the US Military to repair and reconstruct "select and symbolic reconstruction projects in Manhattan".  The U.N are there to monitor Trustwell after complaints involving corrupt business practices and excessive violence.
Trustwell Security at Ground Zero.
Matty boards a Trustwell bus while it's pelted with rocks.  The news report continues that this is a hearts and minds operation to gain support for the U.S from the citizens of the DMZ and that only time with tell if the Trustwell and U.N ceasefire will last.  Matty's bus takes him inside a very secure building site at Ground Zero where the Twin Towers fell and he disembarks.

Scribbled on his hand is the name "Naeir".  He looks for him and finds him, a man with a bomb who yells "Allahu Akbar! God is the greatest!" before detonating it.  The symbolism of a suicide bomber at Ground Zero was not lost on people.  Matty thinks to himself, "Public opnion for the war spiked up a few more points, and there was much rejoicing.  I'm only two weeks into this. How jaded am I?"

They got the shit beaten out of them until the U.N forces showed up and processed them under Article 3. Naeir was just a contact, a way to get in deeper, "clearly there was a little more to him than that".  He gives a fake name, he was going to be a nobody for the duration, "it sucked".

As he works cleaning, he thinks about why he is here.  Trustwell is crooked and everyone knows it, but they've survived countless scandals, investigations, whistle-blowers and left-wing documentaries, "they've been making money from conflict since Kabul and Baghdad".  He ponders how he can break them wide open when they have all the right friends in all the right places.  After two weeks he was still on the outside, "I needed a way in".
Matty ponders his next move.
We then flashback to two weeks ago. Wilson his old Chinese-American friend and his "grandsons" are looking after him.  Matty finally realised Wilson was a crime boss and his grandsons, his private army.  He's gone off the grid since his IWN network contact Kelly Connolly sent him intel via a courior, Liberty News had him spooked.  But he won't hide forever, "the best insurance is fame, visibility, my name and face out there".

Kelly herself came to visit him and offered him a way inside Trustwell if he grants IWN the story exclusive.  They carry on the discussion post-coitally, she informs him they take in labour off the streets, she can give him a fake travel pass, where to go, how to look.  However he'll be cut-off for the duration.  Housed, de-bugged and watched constantly.  She'll give him her phone number as a fail-safe "and I'll send people to pull you out".   He agrees to do it and we rejoin him in the present, schlepping round in scummy water.

He notices two of the workers silent plant a bomb on the boat outside the barracks.  Later when they are all eating and the boat is outside Trustwell HQ, one of them reveals a small detonator switch hidden in his food and sets the bomb off.

Matty: "I knew that was a bomb and I knew that was the detonator and I let them go ahead and do it.  It was easy.  And I felt fucking horrible that I really didn't care so much."

We then get another news report, several terrorist attacks took place that night on various parts of the Trustwell infrastructure.   Martial law has been extended while the U.N tries to keep the peace.   However the DMZ residents defie this restriction  and take to the street to protect Trustwell's human rights abuses.

Trustwell refuse to answer those criticism and call the terrorist attacks "cowardly".   Over an image of someone being tortured we are told Trustwell "report no leads or suspects in custody".  Work has been halted at Ground Zero and have focused on the Empire State Building which is a sensitive site for New Yorkers and the "presence of Trustwell there is an emotional trigger".  But Trustwell aren't backing down.
Join up, get sexy ladies on tap!
In Matty's room, an attractive woman comes walking in much to his confusion.  Then suddenly the men who planted the bomb earlier appear.  Because he didn't report them over the bomb they are going to allow him to join their group.  They know a way to make money inside of Trustwell and all he has to do is say yes.

Matty: "Just like that.  One minute I'm on the outside, the next part of a group.  A crew.  A brotherhood.  A cell.  Perfect."

The next chapter begins with two U.N soldiers being gunned down in the street, then we return to Matty as he ruminates on being part of a team.   He thinks about how he's been a loner for so long that he'd forgotten the sense of belonging and security being part of a group gives you, "especially in a place like the DMZ."

Then one day he's given a rolled up bunch of dollars by the leader.  It was because one of them did a "job" earlier today and everyone gets to share in the spoils, "consider it a down payment on your loyalty and silence".  Another of the gives Matty two thumbs up saying it makes him "officially one of us".

Matty: "What it made me was officially complicit with a terrorist cell.  But I took it anyway".

One night he thinks about the phone hidden under his pillow and how much he wants to call Kelly and have her get him just to see her again.

He thinks about having no name here, no identity, his reason for being there hidden under "so many layers of deception and cover story it was hard to remember it."  He repeats "My name is Matty Roth" a hundred times before falling asleep, every night.   As he sleeps, we hear another story about a bomb going off near a New York landmark and the U.N forces weariness in keeping the peace between Trustwell and the civilians of the DMZ.

Next day there is an attack on the bus Matty is on and he takes a rifle butt to the head after escaping from it.  He wakes up naked, tied to a chair in a freezing room.  He has cold water splashed all over him and a man standing before him asks him, "who's your contact?".  When Matty refuses to answer the man says Matty's I.D is fake and his name belongs to someone who died six months ago and they have his cellphone.  The cold will kill Matty in less than an hour, so who are his friends, who are his contacts?
Torture time.
The man drags him into another room and hold Matty's head under the water in a pool there. Matty still won't talk so over several days he's blasted with cold, heat and loud music that makes his ears bleed.   And he's asked the same questions over and over.  But he just thinks of Zee and all the crap she's suffered through and "what would she say to me if I folded the minute some guy started getting tough with me?"

Finally, weak and exhausted, the masked men drag him out of his cell and force him to kneel and hold a gun to his head.  "I was so wrong" he thinks.  And he gabbles about the crew of men he joined and being paid by them but not having done anything himself and that's all he knows and please not shoot him. The two men both burst out laughing.

They take their masks off and reveal themselves to be his crew, the ones he just ratted out.  "You passed the test" says one of them and now they will answer the very confused Matty's questions.  We then cut to Matty in a luxurious bedroom, thinking that "I told them what they wanted to know, but I kept Matty Roth a secret".  The whole thing was a test he passed with flying colours, some are willing to die to keep a secret or follow an order, but Matty is someone whose loyalty can be bought with money, "you're no fanatic right?  You're a businessman".
He's being rewarded, nice room, shower, food, Kelly's phone back and a hot woman to sleep with... Next morning Matty wakes and is greeted by the sight of Amina, the hot woman, being strapped with explosives.  She is smiling tearfully. Matty is then told he is to take her to her destination "where you will ensure she is able to carry out her mission.  From a safe distance of course. Return to me and I will place ten thousand dollars into your hand.  So we can do business".

Amina tries to make small talk with Matty, then says she thinks he doesn't like her and that sleeping together was a mistake.  Matty says it wasn't, but before he can say more it's time for them to go.  Elsewhere in the DMZ the U.N are holding a press conference.   The are talking about the upsurge in violence and that Trustwell are doing a "superb job" supporting them.  This conference is being broadcast live to "show everyone watching that reconstruction projects... are the path to peace.  Not a catalyst for violence".  And the U.S government are fully behind them.

Then a Trustwell spokesman steps up and says it's an "honour to rebuild some of America's historical treasures". This will help the country heal, they also not tolerate violence towards them and the U.N forces supporting them.   Meanwhile Matty is driving with Amina and another of his cell, and putting the picture together in his head.

Matty: "I had stumbled right into the story, except it was turning out to be ten times bigger than what I thought.  And a hundred times harder".

Back at the press conference the U.N spokesman is defending Trustwell from accusations of corruption and affirming they have the full confidence of the President.

Back with Matty, he is told that if Amina fails to detonate herself, Matty must use the trigger to do it himself,  "we have people watching you.  They also have a trigger.  So no funny business".  Matty is to walk her to the target and make sure the plan executes itself, then he'll get paid.

The press conference is still going on  The secretary general of the U.N is now speaking saying "I look to Trustwell to be partners in peace.  Anything less than that and I can't help but wonder what our soldiers are risking their lives for".  Matty is walking with Amina, they are going to the peace conference of course. But Matty knows they'll never get past the barricade, "and I knew they'd detonate in this crowd if they had to".
There are limits of what Matty will be party to.
He thinks "fuck it" and pulls Amina into a side alley.  He passionately snogs her so he can rip off the trigger mechanisn off her explosive belt.  He hurls it away as the watching cell see him bolt and when they try to detonate nothing happens.  Amina rips off the explosives and goes chasing after Matty as the cell fires on them. He hides in a house thinking he might have got her killed anyway.  Angrily the cell's leader orders "the contingency - now!"

The U.N secretary general is being driven away and their armoured car drives over an I.E.D which causes the whole convoy to explode.  He survives and staggers out the burning wreck, only to be shot by gasmasked men.  The cell leader is told, "it's done".  Amina finds Matty slumped in an alley and slaps him hard.  The chapter concludes with a news report saying the U.N has withdrwan its forces from the DMZ.  The head of Trustwell security vows to investigate the attacks and "bring the killers to justice".

The next chapter begins with Amina curled up asleep while Matty sorts out by phone what to do with her.  When she wakes he tells her she can go stay with a friend of his called Jamal. Amina accuses him of washing his hands of her and that he's made it impossible to return to the cell. She says it was her business how she wanted to end her life and "I don't even who you are to tell me anything,  You lie to me, lie to the others.  I'll bet you'll lie to your friend Jamal about me.  Do you even know who you are?"
Trustwell on the rampage.
"Just barely" thinks Matty. When they get to Jamal he fills them in about what is happening.  Trustwell is "running wild". They believe they now have a mandate to crack skulls as the remaining U.N peacekeepers have new rules of enagement, "back away slowly".  Matty lies to him about Amina, just telling him she is an important source and she needs to be kept safe until he breaks the story.

Jamal says he can't guarantee her safety if someone in his crew sees profit in selling her out.   He want's to know about the story but Matty say it's better he don't know just yet. Jamal agrees to keep her safe for "a week tops".  Matty leaves Amina saying her death, when it comes, should mean something, and the people back at Trustwell will kill her, "for no other reason than they're pissed off".  As Jamal leaves with Amina he tells Matty to call Zee sometime.

The next few pages are a montage of Trustwell security rampaging through the DMZ killing people left, right and centre while a news report plays over the images.  It reports on a conference being attended by various interested parties and begins by saying that the U.N peacekeeping mission has failed, that Americans don't want foreign troops walking the streets.  A counter argument is put forward that Trustwell needed the cover of the U.N. but are now being allowed total discretion in how they operate.

Now with the absence of any oversight, "it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better".  There is now chaos on the steets and Trustwell "may see opportunities there".  Someone then defends Trustwell saying they are doing what they need to do to fight the Free States and carry out the reconstruction.  But someone accuses Trustwell of carrying out "collective punishment.  In effect letting everyone know there is a new sheriff in town".  At the end of the day, when reconstruction is complete, the residents of the DMZ will be the ones to "tell us if it was worth it or not".
The FSA commander and Danzinger.
Back with Matty, he is down in the subway and meets up with the leader of the Free States forces there.  Matty thinks he owes him affter the debacle with Viktor Ferguson in book two. With him is another Free Stater who tells him he should have let Amina die.  Matty asks how he knows about her and the man shows him his Trustwell Security pass and introduces himself as Danzinger.

He tells Matty he just plays Trustwell Security but is a loyal Free Stater.  He also manages the cell Matty joine confirming Matty's suspicions that Trustwell is behind the "terrorist" attacks on itself an the U.N.  He says hiring a group of "raghead terrorists to fuck shit up for you, create demand for your services" has lead to them taking charge of the city now.

Matty asks why attack the U.N? Danzinger says Trustwell didn't need them anymore.   The Iraq war taught everyone that "hit 'em hard enough and they'll cut and run".  Matty is rendered speechless with rage, Danzinger agrees it's deplorable, "what some motherfuckers won't do for a little job security".

Later Matty sits alone, thinking about what Danzinger, told him.  It was all off the record sadly, so he needs a way to verify what he was told.   He's in a mess right now, can't show his face to the cell, Trustwell, Liberty News, his friends.   Only one person left, he calls up Kelly Colloney and tells her everything, "my first honest, open conversation with a friend in weeks".

A bit later one of the cell tracks him down and attacks him with a knife calling him a "traitor".  Matty manages to fight him off, using his knife on him.  He wonders how they found him, then realises they bugged his phone while they were torturing him.   And in a panic he realises they heard his conversation with Kelly and know where Jamal and Amina are, so he races off to find them.
Jamal's self sufficient camp.
As he runs he thinks to himself that this is "going to put my entire time in the DMZ to the test".   The mental and physical exertions, his wits and the friendships he's made.  He realises he'll either "expertly pull it off or have fucked up everything i've come to care about".   He arrives at Jamal's camp only to find the Free States are there.  He goes to the house Amina is in, only to find Zee there too.  "You really get around, Matty, don't you?" Zee says.

Jamal tells him that the Free States brought with them the workers being used in the so-called terrorist cells.  Matty goes outside and angrily confronts Danzinger over this.  The Free States commander calms Matty down and says this is part of the "plan".  It's about a post-Trustwell Manhattan, everyone of his friends will be safe, this is only temporary.

The commander says a power vacuum is coming, now they have the worker cells they have Trustwell by the balls, Danzinger got them out before they could be "liquidated".  Matty says "... you're going to sell them back to Trustwell" and the commander says they'll be bought, "every single one".

Matty thinks "fuck that".  It was the second time the FSA had him playing propaganda machine. He is told everything about Trustwell and what they told the worker cells to do, and the FSA want to use it as a bargaining chip to gain ground and power in the DMZ.

Matty:  "The idea of all this time I invested, the people I lied to, betrayed, put at risk. All for a story that was being stolen right before my eyes.  I couldn't bear it".

So he held up his phone hidden under the mike used to record the testimony of one of the cell members, he hit redial and it went straight through to Kelly at I.W.N, "and she got her exclusive".
You couldn't do that with a Smartphone.
And in less than an hour it hit the airwaves.  This sends the Free States commander into a panic, they have to pull back to the Lincoln Tunnel immediately.   He holds a gun to Matty's head yellying, "this could have been it! We could have won!  We could have ended the war!" He accuses Matty of being a typical journalist, always chasing "goddamn bylines". 

Matty thinks to himself that for the first time he felt he owned the title of journalist, the commander could have pulled the trigger then "and I would have died with that huge grin on my face".  He might have been killed right then, we'll never know because the U.N arrive in helicopters and the FSA commander runs off.  The U.N trooper who runs over to Matty says "a lot of very powerful people are going to be very grateful to you, Mr.Roth.  You should put some thought into what you'll ask for in return".   Matty knows, he wants Amina left alone.

When the U.N are gone with the Trustwell cell members Matty tells Amina she is free, no one is going to detain or prosecute her.  She can do whatever she wants.  Bitterly she asks him what she is "free" to do.  Starve to death?  Take a random bullet?

Amina: "If that's freedom, I wish I had never met you, Matty.  I wish I'd given my life as I always wanted.  I could be in heaven, with a peaceful mind. Away from this horrible, horrible world.  What could possibly be more free than that?"

Matty tries to tell her she can stay with her, but she sadly tell him to forget about her, "at least then I can be free of you".  And Matty has no reply to that as she walks away from him.

Matty watches her as she leaves and realises that the one advantage of working undercover was that you got to be someone fictional, "but then when it ends, and you come back to reality... the repercussions are unavoidable". 
Manly tears Matty?
He is feeling the comedown hard but then Jamal and Zee congratulate him on the story and saving Amina, Zee kisses him saying it was the most "selfless thing" I've seen you do in two years. Matty holds her and buries his face in her shoulder thinking, "I was back with friends who cared about me.  At that moment, nothing else mattered".

Two months later Matty is doing some shopping in the market when he sees a tatty woman foraging for food in the nearby bins.  With horror he realises its Amina.  Aghast he watches her kneeling eat something she found, then he just dumbly watches as she wanders off dragging a bunch of possession behind her, before taking a call on his phone and turning away from her retreating form. The end.

An exciting storyline that looks at how both the U.N. and Private Military Contractors would operate in a place like the DMZ. However, this is still more a story about Matty's evolution as a journalist.  By presenting a mystery with a conspiracy that could be seen as entirely credible, we get to see him spend prolonged amounts of time undercover, survive days of physical and mental torture and not give up his real identity, be forced into a moral quandry regarding maintaining that cover, and finally stop himself being the Free States chewtoy by cleverly breaking the story via his trusted contact. One of the most interesting parts of the story is Amina, she shows that sometimes there are no happy endings in the DMZ.  Matty did what was right by her and she still would rather have died a martyr even though what she was dying for was manipulative bullshit. This is not the last we'll see of her, but for now she remains testement to the notion you can have done everything you possible could for a person and still have it suck.  Once again Matty's journalistic zeal maintains the balance of power in the DMZ.  Was the commander right?  Could they have really ended the war if they had done things his way and blackmailed Trustwell?  We'll never know, he is obviously pretty self-serving and biased Matty can therefore be justified in taking the least-worst line, which is mainatining the status quo... for now.  Join me in a few days time for more DMZ.


  1. Cool. Once again a smorgasbord of ideas and issues. It'll take a bit of time to process. But I like that. It's like films where you end up chatting about them for hours afterwards. You really feel you're getting your money's worth then.

    But it's such a melange. Trustwell is obviously a Blackwater expy, so there's all the issues there. The false flag stuff is intriguing. But I especially like the conflicts of identity that arise from going undercover. As you know I've got friends who've had to do that. It's interesting that the ones who really had to live it for years both ended up with mental health problems. One of them had an almost identical dilemma to matty. He had to act as driver in an IRA murder. So he had general ethical problems, the practicalities of what could he do without blowing his cover, weighing up the utilitarian balance (one murder vs preventing many more by keeping his cover). All fascinating stuff and once again this story feels very authentic in how the characters behave.

  2. I'm not surprised maintaining an identity for a long time would induce mental health problems and what a terrible dilemma your friend had to deal with. This book really does feel like Wood talked and researched the realities of undercover work and Matty's inner monologue does feel authentic as you say. The whole conspiracy plot is definitely a way to foreground that, more a way to give Matty a mystery to solve than specifically be about PRMCs and how the operate in warzones.

  3. Speaking of books

    So at least they got books out of their ordeals.

  4. Sounds fascinating, maybe I'll give them a go when I have managed to haul myself out of my overdraft (lol). No, be postive, you WILL do it, you have enough material now for months of posts, a small buying hiatus can be maintained I think.

  5. It's interesting to compare Steve and Marty's experiences. Steve was a cop who went undercover for two years on Operation Julie. He went totally native. Basically the people they were after just turned out to be nice guys with a mindset he found amenable. With Marty it was the other way round. He wasn't particularly political but he was brought up in a Republican context. Initially he just got involved as an agent for money (MI5 bought him a car) but when he witnessed some IRA brutality he became a true believer. But both of them had to effectively live a lie 24/7 for years at a time. You're very isolated in that position. You can't let it slip for a second. It's easy to see how it fuck you up.

    So matty's experience in the story does resonate. Especially the 'whos side am I really on aspects'.

    The suicide bomber stuff seems very authentic too. I know a few people who deal with this threat. I also met some people once who were considering it. Now a lot of the time suicide bombers don't want to go through with it (in Israel 70% of suicide attacks are interdicted) but for the ones who do it's almost a compulsion. There are a few articles about how it's really common for suicide bombers to be almost ecstatic when they trigger. They're often smiling. They're the ones who've prepared properly. There's such a build up towards it. So it's very plausible that someone would be angry and subsequently at a loss if you suddenly deprived them of that. It's almost literally 'anti climactic'. You've removed the one purpose from their life.

    I suspect as you do that there's been a lot of research behind this story. It's like a palimpsest. I can see the underlying Afghanistan and Iraq experiences bleeding through into the American setting. Funnily enough the last thing that did it this well was the Battlestar Galactica reboot.

    And to pick up from the other thread. I can imagine you present a 'dont fuck with me' aura. You have a certain strength of character. And your one inch punch skills. Bad people can sense that.

  6. varalys the dark hates bloggers remote sign in options.15 April 2017 at 14:20

    Hi me here, not able to sign in to my account on mum's pc which is annoying.

    Anyway, what you say is as ever interesting and helps me appreciate the care and thought behind this comic even more. I recall back in the 1990's reading a book called "Shoot The Women First" which was advice given to people combating terrorist cells (I think this was regards to Basque seperatists, but might have been Palestinians) that the women were often the most extreme and terrifying members of the organisations, which made the character of Amina feel even more authentic. Wood manages to evoke real pity for her as well, which is impressive.

    Wood is also really using these early stories to build up Matty's power in the DMZ which sees him become quite a political force to be reckoned with later on as he drifts and compromises and picks sides and starts to alienate those friends he values so much now.

    As for the "don't fuck with me" aura, thanks! I put it down to my mum, she's always been fearless and she's my major role model.

  7. Statistically there are more female suicide bombers than male. That's down to the Tamil Tigers though. Interestingly that also results in more secular bombers than religious.

    I think I've read that book, or at least references to it. But you know what I'm like so you won't be surprised to know I have an interest in women terrorist/freedom fighters. I have wondered whether there's a bit of gender stereotyping going on with all that "the female of the species is more deadly than the male". Are female terrorists seen as more 'deviant' and therefore scary because they depart from expectations that women are less violent? Or is there the 'hysteria' idea that a violent woman must be mentally unstable? Personally I think it's a self selection thing. In the same way female CEOs for example often have to be more 'managerial' and tough to get ahead, only the most fanatical and committed women can forge a place for themselves in organisations.

    You could do a good feminist perspective on this. One thing that's very distasteful in the religious context is women are often led to believe suicide bombing is way of atoning for perceived offences. So girls who engage in pre marital sex (assuming it's not rape) end up forced into the role as a way of restoring the family honour.

    Secular terrorists like the 70s red brigades etc had plenty of willing women on board though. Their motivation ranged through everything from pure ideology to excitement. A lot of them, both men and women, were bored over privileged middle class kids. And they didn't have tumblr back then.

    But to keep on the gender studies vibe, it's interesting that Leila Khaled (the inspiration for Dr Who's Leela) hated the fact that a famous photograph of her was often captioned that she was wearing a hijab. It was in fact a keffiyha. And that was typically seen as a male form of dress (and very much tied up with Palestinian identity) so she was wearing it to make a feminist statement. Leila herself was an atheist from a non Muslim family.

    Amina (coincidentally that was the name of the girl where my mate told her I was between boyfriends, small world) does seem to fit in the 'atoner' model though. Hence her lack of direction when that was snatched from her. There's a lot of conditioning that goes on with grooming bombers. They're taught to regard themselves as already dead. Often they go through a pre emptive funeral service and wear shrouds prior to the mission. So not dying is bound to be disorientating and frustrating.

    Matty's growing importance reminds me a bit of Hemingway. Of course, he set out to make himself part of the fray. Matty's journey seems a bit more accidental. All good stuff though.

  8. Hi, sorry for the delayed response again. Sunday was all family, all day and yesterday I slept all day on my mum's sofa snuggled up with Biff. I did manage to read all of Sword of Sorrows, very good stuff I'm just wondering how many posts I'll need for it, three at least maybe four. That's for when I am done with DMZ in a month and a half.

    You're most likely right about the motivations behind female terrorists and bombers, although I didn't know about "atoning" ones. That's particularly awful. I recall us having a chat about keffiyha a while back.

    We start to find out more about Matty's background soon. His dad is on the board of Liberty News, his mum when she reappears also becomes a key player in the political push-pull of the DMZ too. You'll definitely see why he's felt to need to prove himself independently and although it was accidental the DMZ has been his way to do it.

  9. That does sound like a delightful way of spending the holidays. I fully intended for a long weekend of exercise, productivity and socialising. The reality was lolling on the sofa, snoozing and eating Fudge bars (they were on sale).

    Glad you liked Swords of Sorrow. Can't wait to hear your reviews. I haven't actually read any of them so it'll be fun to see your take first. I'm enjoying DMZ in the interim though, for all the reasons previously alluded to. It's got me a bit nostalgic for my time at News "Not guilty M'Lud" International. I do have some fun memories from there. And it really was about ethics in journalism. Well, not getting caught anyway.

    It's interesting that Matty may be a product of nepotism. That's not uncommon of course in high end journalism. You can either slog your way up the ranks from the local freesheets, or you can do the Guardian thing and just be related to someone.

    Speaking of war zones, my archeology friend is in Iraq at the moment. They're waiting to head over to Syria to dig up some Yazidi mass graves. She keeps trying to convince me that I'd enjoy working for the war crimes tribunals. As it happens I nearly did end up working on the purely legal side. Wish I'd taken it now, five years of helping out the prosecutor then the defendant dies before the end of the trial. Easy wedge. Slightly less keen on the fieldwork though. Does seem that even if people aren't shooting at you everything over there can be a bit explodey. Also I'd have to learn a bit of Farsi and I'm rubbish at languages.

    But anyway, welcome back. Hope you had a nice break and I look forward to the next instalment (but no rush obviously)

  10. Heh, I fully intended spending yesterday getting the text for the next DMZ post done, but was so cozy on the sofa sharing a pillow with Biff I didn't really wake up until tea time. So it should be done and up sometime tomorrow.

    Your time at News International sounds like prime fodder for a tell-all memoir :D

    Working for a war crimes tribunal does sound fascinating, but I'd also be a bit wary of things that go boom. I am also pretty bad at languages. Best I've managed is a smattering of Japanese from all the anime I watch and the ability to pronounce romanji.

  11. Aww, that's such a sweet image. And a novelty not having a cat actually use you as a pillow "You humans don't need to breathe, right?"

    I enjoyed working at the papers. We didn't know about the hacking (I know I say that a lot!). Do have a few minor anecdotes though. I'll save them in case I can weave them into a relevant comment on a story. One weird thing was the sacking ritual. Every time someone got fired everyone bangs on their desks as they're escorted from the building, then cheers.

    Japanese might be a handy war language if North Korea kicks off. Still, if that happens they might put MASH back on. So mustn't grumble.

  12. I think Biff curling up on my face is his subtle way of encouraging me to put the heater on more often.

    As for knowing Japanese, I think I'd spend more time apologising for accidentally giving offence. Manners and protocol in Japan is srs bznss.