Friday, 19 May 2017

DMZ Book 10: Collective Punishment (#55-59)

"What ever happens .  Whatever the city looks like when the sun rises... we are still residents of the greatest city in the world" - Radio Free DMZ

Back with more DMZ.  It's America..  By the time these stories take place it's been nearly ten years since a movement arose in the mid-west known as the Free States.  Disillusioned by a government more interested in fighting wars overseas than taking care of its own people they seceeded from the Union and set up their own government in Montana.  Immediately they came into conflict with the U.S. government and a Second Civil War began.  With so much of the U.S. army serving abroad and the Free States enjoying much popular support the U.S. was pushed back to New York.  It was there that a ceasefire was finally negociated, but the island of Manhattan remained stuck between the two and with around 400,000 people left trapped there after a botched evacuation, people attempt to live their lives as best they can in the DMZ.  The series has been following journalist Matty Roth as he spends several years working on reporting stories of the goings on in the place, but the series has also looked around at the lives of other people who live there too and these five stories are all one-shots, snapshots of lives spent surviving in an American warzone.  Recent events have made the U.S. break the ceasefire and they have been bombing the DMZ every day for a few weeks as well as making aggressive moves aimed at the Free States Army based in New Jersey in preparation for a major push through the DMZ and the resolution of the war one way or another.  These stories take place as the bombs fall and tensions rise to unbearable levels as we say goodbye to characters we've got to know as the series has gone along. Brian Wood is still the sole writer but each chapter has a different artist.  It's the only volume co-creator artist Riccardo Burchielli didn't draw anything in.

FIVE HOURS UNDER FIRE: Artist Andrea Mutti.  We start with a U.S. army soldier called Cal Foster dispatched into the DMZ undercover.  He tries to call for extraction but Liberty News is reporting that in "anticpation of what can only be described as a massive military operation" all cell service and power has been shut off and then he drops his satellite phone and breaks it.  Directional EMPs have been used too.  Liberty News then shuts down because of an executive order. Cal finds shelter in the underground.  He follows the rails and comes across a crowd of people, one of whom is Zee Hernadez.  She demands to know "who the hell are you?"
Zee sees though Cal right away.
We then get to read Cal's thoughts.  He is a member of the "New American Military.  Officially I'm not called anything at all".

Cal: "I'm no Trustwell mercenary. I'm not exactly Special Forces.  I've never been issued anything  remotely resembling a uniform.   We're encouraged to scrounge on the battlefield.  We're  encouraged to act like locals.  Like illegals.  Like terrorists."

He arrived in the DMZ three weeks ago to make what is happening, happen.  He thinks that this is the "big one" and when the smoke clears the war will be over and he'll be left cleaning up what remains. 

He thinks the civil war is a "waste of fucking time".  People have too much of a sense of entitlement and think the world should bend for us.  "We've lost our identity as a nation, is it any wonder we're here now?"  He sits down and Zee comes over to him and asks if he is OK.  She kneels and addresses him quietly that she knows who and what he is. She checks him over asking is he's here to kill someone, "how long before you start lining us up against the wall an shooting us?"

He tells her she has an attitude for someone in a hole in the ground. Then he pushes her hand away.  She asks if he or she should tell them who is bombing them. He says they know who's bombing them, "do they know you picked the targets?" she responds.  He stares at her then asks who she really is.  Zee says he'll never know. 

Zee: "If I've learned anything about people like you - tourists in this city - it's that you don't have the faintest idea who any of us actually are."

He asks her to teach him.  She says she has rounds to do.  He asks why she doesn't accuse him out loud and "let these animals tear me apart?"  She just says he doesn't understand them and leaves him sat alone.
Cal in a quandry.
He thinks to himself how he is trained not to give his identity away.  He spent the last three weeks assimilating yet a "crazy bitch" saw right through him.  "Who is she?  Who is she working for?" He's done his mission and the bombs are falling. Now he wonders how he can kill Zee and get away, does she have access to his files.  "Do we even have files? We must. At any rate she knows" he starts thinking himself round in circles.  He hefts his rifle, then a blonde woman with a prosthetic leg makes a "shush" motion at him.

Cal: "Civilians. Traitors. Insurgents. Human shields. Terrorists. Martyrs. There's nothing noble about any of this bullshit is there?"

He thinks how the military are thought of as part on the problem.  That by removing the soldiers the violence will stop. It is a fantasy that "demonises the professionals and absolves the guilt of the so-called innocent".

The war has rewritten the rule, trying to apply conventional modes of behaviour to the most unconventional war the planet has ever seen is "naive".  He's twenty-six years old and was a high school kid when it all kicked off. He wonders if he'll celebrate his 30th birthday with a gun strapped to his chest.

The generators then cut out plunging the room into red emergency lighting.  The woman with the prosthetic leg comes and sits next to him.  She asks him why he carries a gun.  He mumbles that every has one in the DMZ, but she insists she does know a lot of people walking about with assault rifles.  He stammers "I... I have to".   She says no one has to, they might want to, but they don't have to.
Cal does a runner.
She asks if he is Trustwell.  Which he says he isn't. She responds that for Trustwell war is business which is why they carry weapons.  But the U.S. and FSA don't have to.  He demands to know what the hell she is talking about.  She says she is babbling but she likes him and thinks he is "one of the good ones" and wants him to throw his gun away.   He flashes back to shooting various people.  Then returns to the present as the lights come back on.

She puts her head on his shoulder but this makes him get up abruptly.  He apologises to her and runs off after she calls after him.  She implores him to stop, but as he runs he says "I can't".  And that brings this chapter to an end.

GHOST PROTECTOR: Artist Nathan Fox.  We are in Chinatown. Triad boss and rulet of Chinatown the elderly Wilson is having a lavish meal.  Sitting with him is a body guard. Wilson tells him to go home to his family but the bodyguard says he has none. "Me neither" sighs Wilson, "just this soup here".  He tells the bodyguard, name of Woodrow, that he is family and invites him to eat with him.

Wilson: "It is a shame Chinatown dies tonight".

Woodrow: "If you survive boss. Chinatown will never die.  You are Chinatown".

We then flashback to three days ago.   A Huey helicopter is brought to him and a man comes out saying it is an honour to meet Wilson.  He is offering the vintage copter to Wilson in exchange for a meeting with him.
Bribing Wilson.
Inside they talk, the man says that there is twenty-million in gold packed into the Huey.  He says to Wilson he is going to be direct.  The American army is massed around half a mile away.   They have the "moral right, the mandate, the will and the support of planet Earth in this invasion".  He wants Wilson to agree to evacute Chinatown otherwise they'll all be slaughtered in the bombing that's going to come.

Wilson says he doesn't need money he has enough.  The man says it's all worthless paper money, he's "burned through his gold stash".  Once the U.S. army come rolling through if Wilson doesn't agree to the evacuation, " you and everyone you know and love will rot to death in a detention camp on the other side of the planet.  You have three days".  And the man leaves Wilson alone to think it over.

Wilson:  "How did this come to pass? When did I get old? The Living Saint of Mott street, some called me. Others, Ghost Protector".  What will they call me now?  This is an impossible situation... one I did not see coming... am I expected to just lie down... after walking so tall for so long?"

He gets angry  and thinks they wouldn't crush an entire neighboirhood merely because they didn't run on command.  He tells his guards to torch the chopper so the man who gave him the ultimatum sees the smoke.  Then dump all the gold in the river, "make sure they can see that too".

Next day he wakes up in the company of a young woman. His guards phone to tell him to look out the window.  He does so  and sees the whole population on Chinatown standing outside.   At first he is angry with them, but as he gets changed and goes down he realises, "I am an old, old man.  Time to call it a day".
Wilson demonstrates his power.
He stands facing the crowd and bellows, "KOWTOW!" and everyone falls on their knees and bends forwards facing the ground.  Wilson walks through them and hands an umbrella to an old woman, he tells her to take everyone who wants to go across the bridge and they'll be safe.  But he won't be coming with them.

Three days later, bombs are falling on Chinatown.  Wilson drinks his soup and looks out of the window and thinks to himself, "I was merely her caretaker. I had a good run.  But she will outlive us all".  And a bomb falls on where he is obliterating him bringing Wilson's story to an end.
Farewell Wilson.
AMINA, MOTHER OF ONE: Artist Cliff Chiang. Time to check in with Amina.  A rather lost young woman who was going to be a suicide bomber but was saved by Matty.  We last saw her living rough, but when we meet her now she seems to have improved her life in the meantime.  She's making coffee for herself in a nice flat.

She is listening to Radio Free DMZ, still broadcasting thanks to an EMP shield.  She peers out of the window and sees a baby in a car seat sitting alone out in the open in the middle of the street.  She rushes down there and picks the seat and baby up and takes them back to her flat.  Just in time as well, a bomb falls where the baby just was.
Amina finds a baby.
The baby stays fast asleep even as the explosion rocks the room. Amina holds the radio to the child's ear and realises it's deaf.

Amina: "... I know you can't hear me, and this is probably a really weird thing to say... but enjoy the silence.  It's a bad night out there".

As she sits holding the baby she thinks about her past, from a middle class girl headed for NYU or Columbia to a radicalised and manipulated terrorist.

Her parents died early on in the war, who she used to be died with them.   After her failed suicide bombing she "died" again, "my identity was compromised and destroyed, sacrificed by the ego of a stupid boy named Matty who didn't even know me".  She lost two years living rough, but after she voted for Parco she signed up for a housing program through the Delgado Nation and the architect Jamal.  They found structurally sound buildings for people and hooked them up with water and power.  She got lucky and was given a home in an old printing works.

Amina: "I came back, gradually, back into myself. Despite groups like Trustwell, the Free States, or Matty Roth's best efforts.  I spend my days and nights alone but I'm never lonely. And then... this happened and everything changes again".

She curls up with the baby on her bed, then hears a noise.  Three intruders enter, but she kills them with a shotgun and then pukes.
A fiercce Amina takes out three intuders.
She thinks how home invasions are nothing new especially since the Parco Nation security bailed.  The baby triggers an extreme survival response in her.   As she cleans up the blood she ruminates that there are too many children in the DMZ, one baby is one too many.   "We've gotten pretty good at turning a blind eye to the horrible shit that happens out there in the world.  Perhaps doubly so at home." 

She stand cuddling the kid, and wonders why she was to only one who went out a grabbed the kid. She remembers how indiscriminate violence can do funny things to a person's psyche.  It can cause extme paranoia and you begin to think everything is out to kill you. "Once you decide that what's the point?  What's the point of anything?" she thinks and starts bathing the baby.

Amina: "I came back from it by some miracle,  and if this sweet thing's mother can't take care of her child maybe this is my karmic duty?Not to jugde a despairing mother's decision, but simply to help? or maybe I'm redy to stop being alone alll this time".

Later, while the baby sleeps, Amina looks out of the windiw a hears a woman shouting "where is she?"  Amina sheds a tear.

She goes outside with the baby slung round her armed with a shotgun.  There are a few other gun toting gang members with her.  Amina demands to know why the mother left her baby in the road.   She thinks that it's hard not to become radicalised in this city, so why did she choose to come out. She could have stayed in, moved away and taken the baby and built a home in the new part of the city.

Amina: "I could have registered with the Red Cross or some NGO charity, maybe even got out of the city.  I hear mothers with small children sometimes get special permission."

The mother holds a gun to Amina's forehead and demands her child back.  Amina asks her why she left the baby.   It all pours out of the woman,  she couldn't stand every little thing in the universe threatening her.   She lost her hearing two months ago because of the bombing and cried for nine days straight.  "I just can't protect her from any of it anymore" and she slumps to the ground, head bowed.
Amina hands the baby back.
The men threaten to shoot Amina, she ignores them and shows the mother that the baby isn't crying.  She hands her back saying she fed and bathed her.  The woman holds the baby tight and says to Amina "you don't think I deserve to be a mother, do you?"  Amina says the baby needs its mother and that she knows what she almost lost.  As they leave, we end this story with Amina thinking:

Amina: "I've gone to hell and back, sold my soul a few times over, and somehow came out the other side intact.  How can I judge anyone?  None of us was meant to live this sort of life. The scars and psychic damage will be with us forever, as will the guilt... and the respect."

A DECADE ON THE WALL: Artist Danijel Zezelj.  Another catch up and farewell to one of the more peripheral characters an aging street artist called "Decade Later".  We see him in a hoody walking through the ravaged streets.  Silently he gets out some spray paint and paints his tag onto a wall and walks off.  We flash back to him being taken to the U.S. army Shea Stadium prison, "I was arrested for bullshit reasons, framed by old friends who refused to accept my neutrality".

As he is placed in a cell, he thinks how his way of coping with the war, paintng, hitting parties and walking the streets as normal, "being an artist: real world rules need not apply.  Then they bashed all my teeth in.  And broke me completely". He had to suffer endless trips to the dentist to remove the shattered remains:

Decade: "The injections.  The pain due to the injections.  The vibrations from the bone drills. The coldness of the implants. The constant taste of blood... all horrible.  The worst thing is no one spoke a word to me the entire time.  Not a single word.  I gave them everything they asked of me.  And they just kept taking".

He confessed everything he knew, made guesses, speculated, embellished stories, while leaving himself out best he could.  Confirmed every rumour, every urban myth, offered to take them to people. 
Decade Later, tortured by the US.
"In short I cooperated... as long as I talked, they didn't torture me." They did test him once by giving him a pad and pen.  He drew a picture of the streets of Manhattan on his cell wall and got beaten half to death for that.  Once he got out of the infirmary he refused to clean it off.  They starved him for a week until a "disgusted" doctor checked him out and he was given liquid but no food.

He didn't die though. They were shipping off prisoners and emptying the prison.  Decade was considered to be no longer a threat and he could either leave Manhattan altogether or return.  No contest, he wanted to be returned to the DMZ.  The business with Parco, the nuke and the impending invasion doesn't put him off.  As he walks the steets he thinks, "the city is my home.  The city is my career.  It's always been that.  It's always been everything".

After they broke him he feels he owes the city, his friends and everyone he betrayed and if he ends his days bleeding out in the street "I'll happily pay that debt".   When he was in his cell he stared at the drawing he did, it became his identity.

Decade: "It might well have been a self portrait. Erasing it would have been giving up hope. Hope and faith and my history and what I've pledged my life to".

He walks into a gallery and prepares himself to continue what he started with that drawing in his cell.  The gallery walls are empty of paintings, he pulls out some black marker pens and starts to work. In a cartoony style he chronicles his whole history in one massive room spanning mural.

Pleased with his work he leaves tossing his pens aside and we end his story with this final thought, "The city is my DNA. The buildings are my bones.  The streets are my veins. And even if they break me and bleed me dry, I'll carry it for decades to come".
His work of a lifetime.  Will anyone see it?
MATTY'S WAR.  Artist David Lapham. We finally return to Matty, back in the DMZ as a Liberty News jornalist again.  He walks through the streets trying to avoid bombs, thinks to himself "have you heard? The war's ending".  Apparently everyone is saying the war is going to be ended soon.

Matty: "Time to heal the country, get it back on track. Where've you been?  Change is in the wind.  Can you feel it?  It just smells like fallout".

He is on the ground again to document the glorious transition from war to peace, "the eyes of the nation and the world are on me now.  I'm the last person who deserves this".

He enters some underground tunnels and knocks on a door with bundles of cash in his hands.  Two women open it and say "It's Matty mother-fucking Roth" and "come to save us all."  He is allowed inside where a crowd of people are huddled together.  He holds up his bag with his Liberty News laptop, broadcast software, maps, his badge and lots of cash.

He hands the bag over to them and holds up his phone saying it works despite the blackout, "anyone want to call their families on the government's dime?"  One of the men is an ex-Ghost of Central park who left because of ideological differences.   Matty wonders if he has something to do with it and will the guy smash his face into the wall.
Matty back in the warzone.
The anger passes, he tells Matty that it was never going to work out for Soames.  When things returned to normal a well armed militia led by an ex-FSA soldier who sold an atomic bomb was always going to cause problems.  But Soames fucked it up anyway, "hope he rots in hell" he says.  Matty says Soames is alive and the man shows anger again.

Matty mingles some more, a woman asks for his press badge which Matty says she can have "might be more trouble than it's worth though". She says she can handle it. She walks off and a huge man, one of Parco's old guards looms over him demanding to know where he is. Matty stammers that he's probably dead.

The man asks if he is bugged and Matty says the bag probably has one and the phone has GPS.  The man asks if he is "gonna fuck us royally like before?  Any more of my friends gonna die because of you?"  Matty calls the man "Del" and says he hope he won't screw anyone over.

Del: "Shit... I always believed you.  Always in way to deep to be faking.  Always too cool to be running some kind of scam. Take this.  It might not be here and it might not be tonight, but it's only a matter of time before someone takes a shot at you"

And he offers Matty a pistol. Matty considers it and Del's words.  He did it all because "it was fun. I believed it all". Because of that attitude it's got to come back on him, maybe a bullet, maybe something else.  "But I gave up the press pass for a reason, and I feel like this reason started the first time I picked up a gun" and he refuses to take it and Del wanders off.

He goes and washes his face when a deaf girl comes up to him,  She was Julliard student who had her eardrums blown out on Day 204. She plays guitar by feeling the rhythm of the strings in her chest and Matty sits and listens to her play.  He wonders if she knows who he is, "but she's not asking for anything.  Except for the company."
Matty enjoys some music.
He goes and watches the people using his laptop and sharing out the money.  A man sneers they are vultures.    Matty said he did give it to them.   The man says that "you give constantly and they treat you like shit because it wasn't more".

The man says he and Matty are alike, neither of them want to be there. He says some of the neighbourhoods are better than they were before, that the violence levels have decreased in places compared to what it was before.  Annoyed Matty says "I didn't think people like you existed anymore".   And he pushes away the man yelling "fuck off" when he doesn't get the hint.

Matty demands to why he is even here.  The man shouts that he has a twelve-million pound townhouse not two blocks away which he can't get to because he'll be attacked.   His yacht is now at the bottom of the Hudson.  Who knows what has happened to his house in the Hamptons, he used to have a wife and kids, "I used to have a life! Now I don't and everyone's fault but mine!"

Matty starts to say they are all in it together, but the man interrupts saying some have suffered more than others.  The people out there trying to live their lives in squalor are stupid, and Matty isn't someone who wants to live like that.  Matty says maybe not but not for the shame reasons the man has. "Liar! Fucking Liar" the man yells at him and everyone turns to look at him.

Morning arrives.  Everyone is asleep bar Matty who ventures outside as no bombs are dropping.  He starts climbing, thinking about events as he does so.  The was is going to end, we've had the preamble.

Matty: "How do you end a war like this one?  One where you are the population, where you still have to live with the people you conquered? Best answer: As quickly as possible.  You break the back of the opposition and get it over and done with".  As good and answer as anyone's come up with, anyway."

He reflects that the FSA for unknown reasons have been sitting out the past two years of conflict.   The U.S. is a wounded animal, it needs to charge or it'll die. How many lives of the remaining New Yorkers will be sacrificed in the end?  He reaches the top of the water tower he's been climbing and there he looks out across the city and thinks:

Matty: "I just wanted to see it one last time, all at once like this. Before whatever's coming comes.  I hope I still recognise it afterwards."
Matty reaffirms his faith in the people of the DMZ.
End of volume.  Five very diverse stories.  Cal's is an interesting one, if because I have learned he's behaving somewhat illegally in the DMZ despite ostensibly being part of the U.S. military.  A strange paraniod man who freaks out when Zee intuits who and what he really is, spinning paranoid fantasies about all around him and yet when challenged as to why he carries a gun by an innocent woman he can't do anything but flee.  Wilson's story is a sad one, he's been a great character but when he realises the conflict has grown bigger than just handling local militias and gangs he gets to look after his people by ordering to them to leave while salvaging his pride torching and dumping the bribes.  Dying with Chinatown, going out like a badass calmly drinking soup was the correct way to say farewell to him and it's notable he's the final person who was part of the nuke deal to be dealt with by the U.S. Amina's story though melancholy is also inspiring.  She managed to drag herself out of the lowest point a human can end up in, find her true self again and settle down in a nice flat.  It's also nice to know Parco's administration did more than just acquire a nuke, it rehomed people in safe buildings.  He interactions with the baby really tug at the heartstrings as does the broken woman's reasons for leaving.  Hopefully one day Amina will find someone to care about, but at least as she says being alone doesn't mean she's lonely.  Decade Later's story is another one that can be seen as uplifting even in grim circumstances.  The torture carried out by the U.S. military is shocking and it's totally understandable why he's break.  His defiant chronicaling of his entire life in an old art gallery has a strange beauty to it, the man loves the city more than anything and even on it's knees he'll always be part of it.  Finally with Matty we get an odd little tale, his immediate giving away of his Liberty News kit is one way of getting people to trust him, and his climb up to of the water tower to gaze upon the city gets us ready to lead into the penultimate volume, Free States Rising.  Join me in a few days to find out how the war escalates.


  1. "Wilsonnnnnn!" :-(

    (I feel like Tom Hanks now)

    Aww, I was really hoping he'd come out on top. And I'll be honest, I for d that honour before reason stoic orientalism a bit of a cliche. That might just be because I'm annoyed they killed him off though.

    'Collective punishment' is another international law term btw, so my suspicions that he wrote this with a copy of the Hague and Geneva Conventions to hand increase.

    What I do like though is that it seems to be avoiding the 'tidy ending' convention. There is that tendency to assume real life has a narrative bit of course it doesn't, especially with wars. There's never a definitive 'cut off date' even if there's something like VE Day. I bet Malitia would have some interest insights as to whether WW2 was the end of all the conflict in Eastern Europe. And of course there were repercussions all round the world. The end of empire for the British was one consequence. Especially in Asia and the Far East. Lots of now heavily armed locals who we'd been teaching how to throw out an occupier. Who could have guessed where that would end? And of course just look at the Balkans.

    But I digress again. It is wrapping up interestingly in terms of story and I'm glad we revisit the other characters. This story has been very good for relating that things still happen when Matty isn't around.

    Wars, like great art, are never finished only abandoned. So I'm looking forward to the final instalment.

  2. Oof sorry for the delay, had the urge to replay Bioshock Infnite all last night, amazing game set in a 1907 steampunk flying city with lots of alternative universe shenanigans, and have been catching up on sleep all day. Oddly, I dreamed I was in the DMZ under heavy bombardment, but I teamed up with the Free States. Also there was magic thanks to the game I had been playing. Dreams eh?

    Anyway, new you'd be sad about Wilson. In a way it's the series ramping up the stakes and the sense of inevitability, if Wilson has to give into the forces at stake then we know things have reached the point of no return. Of course Matty remains the wildcard still, one man who CAN make a difference as the last two volumes will show.

    What's interesting is how basically the U>S stops even pretending it's about going after Parco's mob. They are at war with the DMZ and not in it, it's knowing that and how much Matty has become attached to the place that leads him to make the decisions he does. And of course the Free States are still at large elsewhere it's just pushing back and reclaiming New York fully will be a big blow against them. Interestingly I'm as curious to find out fully how it ends as you are. When I decided to to cover this series, I made the decision to try and come to each volume as "fresh" as possible, so I didn't reread the whole series so I'd spoil as little with fore-knowledge as possible. I've realised on reading the penultimate volume that I am very hazy on how it all ends!

  3. That's ok, whenever you're mysteriously absent I check the newspapers for reports of assassinations or north Korean military facilities blowing up. But I'm happy to go along with your 'video game's alibi ;-)

    Yeah, Wilson is probably my favourite character in this. I really liked him. I was sort of hoping he'd emerge as a Duke of New York ("he's A number one!") type figure, and subtly bump Parco out of the picture. I could imagine him playing the long game.

    The urgency of the US forces to move in whilst they've got public and international opinion behind them reminds me of the real US post 9/11. They too realised they had to act fast in a very short window before support drifted away. I'm surprised no one has suggested the DMZ should be an open city with a UN mandate force in there. Like post war Palestine or Iraq. The US wouldn't like that of course. But one dynamic that's sort of been downplayed in this is the international reaction. Mind you, assuming the US in this world is still a superpower I can see why everyone else was happy to stay out of it.

    I like your approach of coming to each story fresh. It's more interesting to see your posts react to events in real time as it were. That reminds me though of a scholarly article about ginny weasly that made a compelling case that she was the stealth protagonist. Unfortunately it was all based on an assumption her full name was Virginia. Oops.

    I am really glad I stumbled on your blog though. I genuinely do enjoy it, and you know I have pretty high standards in what I allow time on. The only other blog I enjoyed as much was Laurence Miles. You do share his quirky humour a bit, but also his incisiveness (he predicted matt smith ages before anyone had heard of him). You are marginally less stalkerish about Steven Moffat though. :-)

  4. Heee, well honestly if I'm absent it is pretty much "played videgames all night, passed out sometime around 0900" everytime. Bloody videogames, I dunno...

    The U.N. has at least been involved in the past there was the Trustwell arc where they were faking terrorist strikes against them and Amina was going to blow up the Secretary General, until Matty stopped her. So they blew him up anyway. And now Matty is being used to prevent the U.N. breathing down the back of the U.S. armies neck as they make this final push. One thing I can say which is hammered home by the next book is that this universes U.S. government was far, far more hawkish than ours, being involved in many more overseas escapades while letting their own country fall into Civil War, I can imagine the international community thought they were well out of it when the FSA rose up and organised what was general rioting and unrest into a political ideology.

    I'm glad you like the blog, it's always nice chatting with you. Ah yes, Mr. Miles, I wish he was still writing stuff. I must admit as regards Moffat, I didn't want to turn into one of those people who complained non-stop about something but still kept watching, so I quit the show after Matt Smith's first season. I'm quite looking forward to being able to watch it again once he is gone.

  5. It's funny, Dr Who is back on but I've not been doing my fanatical IPlayer thing. Doesn't seem that long ago I'd be watching the show avidly and every auxiliary programme, checking the various BBC websites and then reading every thread on Gallifrey One (or Base, always get them mixed up). I love Peter Capaldi, but maybe it's time for another fallow period. Have a bit of a redoubt and regroup.

    Yeah, the UN thing sort of fizzled out. Thought they might emulate Somalia. With like Pakistani forces in a safe zone just outside the DMZ.

    It's always interesting to check out something like Janes to see where countries are engaged in military operations. People focus on the obvious ones, but you might be amazed at the ones that slip under the radar. Even the UK has about 15 operations on around the world. Current US policy is to have capacity to fight two full scale wars and still be able to undertake police actions anywhere needed. Heh, when they did the specs for our new Type 45 destroyer they gave a list of various types of warship and said it had to be capable of taking them all on at once and still win.

    "Isn't this just the current Argentine navy?"

    "Not necessarily"

    It's funny though that we still have the fourth biggest military in the world. We've got the commonwealth now, we're all friends. Let the empire go! (in reality our trade economy means we need a blue water navy). And who's going to get into fights in Portsmouth kebab houses if there's no sailors?

    Hmm, wonder how a UK version of this story would play put? Well we'll probably find out when Yorkshire declares UDI.

  6. Interesting. I think the inference in D<Z is that the US is involved in fairly major actions, as it takes them nearly a decade to resolve them and disentangle all their troops to bring them home for this final push.

    As for DMZ in the UK, would be an interesting thought, I suppose it would be harder because their is no hard boundaries like Manhattan Island. Trying to contain say London or Manchester would be hard because of the cities tendencies to flow into smaller towns. I mean even out as far as Macclesfield is roughly attached to Manchester via Stockport. As for what would cause an uprising, I think it would be like Victoria Wood said, the only way to rouse a British person to rise up against the government would be banning car boot sales! :D

  7. I think I've mentioned about how there are a number of 'stop lines' across the UK. They're the defenses that were designed to slow down a German invasion. You can still see them if you know what to look for. But you could possibly utilitise them to create a secure enclave. Cornwall for example is pretty easy to isolate because of the Tamar. The Caledonian canal is probably pretty defensible too. Be fun to dig the maps out and see where I might base my HQ.

    Withdrawal from any conflict is hard. You're supposed to do collapsing layers. But in reality you quite often end up having to abandon the rearguard. Like Dunkirk or Stalingrad. You'll note in modern conflicts US forces are stuck there until they can get a local army friendly enough to cover for them as they pull out.

    Both the logistics and political settlement in relation to ending the conflict in the DMZ are interesting to speculate about. In a way the US is fortunate because they have the reconstruction period to emulate. But that was far from smooth going. Be interesting as to new yorks status post DMZ. Presumably all the back up financial facilities took over (as they're designed to do). But might people realise wall street is now superfluous? Has NYC proved to the rest of the country it can do without it? Probably end up like one of those semi abandoned cities like in yugoslavia. Might be a cheap time to pick up a park avenue apartment.

    Ah well guess we'll be finding out soon enough. Unless your handlers have another mission for you.

  8. lol, I think my handlers will leave me alone for now :D

    I'm writing up the next volume as we speak. There are news flashes interspersed with the bombings and Matty's shenanigans. We're told private companys are already falling over themselves bidding for the contracts to rebuild the city. So maybe the city still has some perceived value yet.

    Because it's already been established that the reason the FSA did so well was that barely any of the normal U.S. military was home and the Nat.Guard mainly defected to them I can see from what you say that it wasn't a case of just whisking their troops out of combat to come home, hence them recruiting and deploying incredibly green soldiers who ended up responsible for the Day 204 massacre. But I'm looking forward to rereading the final volume to see how things play out after the cliffhanger in the volume I am writing up now.

  9. Oh you haven't fallen for the "just this one last job and we'll leave you alone" thing have you, you sweet summer child? They'll *never* let you out
    You'll just have to take them out to be free. Did TV Tropes teach you nothing!

    There's good money to be made rebuilding war zones. Especially if there's some form of Marshall Plan funding in place. Not surprised the carpet baggers are lining up.

    I have been thinking about the practicalities of the regular army returning home. Ok so lots of trained troops. But who's to say which side they might prefer. I'm also wondering about access to equipment and resources. Be interesting again to check the maps. This time for facilities located in FSA territory.

    Funnily enough, in WW2 they stored a lot of stuff down here. It was out of luftwaffe range pretty quickly. Don't know if you know but there was a backup second wave D-Day. In case the first landings foundered. All the kit was down here. When it wasn't needed they shoved it in the old mine workings. There's literally hundreds and hundreds of trucks, jeeps, dukws etc still down there. And loads of spitfires in kit form. Someone was trying to get a government grant to build a spitfire museum down here. Didn't get it unfortunately. But the airfield is next to my office so quite often see him bombing around in his replica spitfire.

    But anyway, roll on next installment. Curious as to how this resolves.

  10. Actually it was a thread at least at the start of the war that returning U.S. soldiers had a hard time shooting at fellow Americans. Which is why the U.S> government tried "othering" them as Rednecks, racists and traitors. Interestingly you never really find out what the FSA's ideology was. In a way it didn't matter, they were a plot device to explore how the U.S military etc conducted themselves in the DMZ. They do have a symbol and uniforms so that makes them a proper army right?

    That's cool about the Spitfires. Shame it didn't get a museum, I painted my fair share of airfix kits of them.

  11. Spitfire fun facts:

    Most of them were pink.

    A spitfire pilot was more likely to have a Polish or Punjabi accent than a public school one.

    It is a shame about the museum. The guy has assembled 10 spitfires in their various configurations, and it'd be nice if they had an audience. As mentioned, my office is right next to an airfield (there's practically tyre marks on the roof). There's 2 other airfields along here. In one of them they've left the control room exactly as it was in the war, with all the charts and stuff. It's now a sort of cafe. Albeit you have to make everything yourself and just leave the money.

    The legal status of the FSA is interesting. As mentioned before they may well qualify as belligerents rather than insurgents, but in any event they're a proper army within the Conventions definitions. That would be relevant to the post war settlement. Can't be penalised or prosecuted, unless war crimes.

    The othering is very reflective of reality. There was a debate in the original civil war as to whether to portray Johnny Reb as a traitor, or a fellow American who just had a different opinion. That Lincoln film touches on that very well.

  12. You make me sad that we don't have a Spitfire museum, those facts would be cool for people to know.

    Heh, well as for the treatment of the FSA, from what happens to The Commander in the next volume shows the U.S. isn't big on applying Geneva Conventions to them.

    Ugh I should have it written up for tuesday by now, but I am gripped by trying to beat Bioshock on Hard mode without the respawn chambers. Challenging. This time it's set in an art deco city under the sea and is a vicious deconstruction of Objectivism. Also you beat mutant people to death with a wrench.

  13. For me the most mind boggling spitfire fact was that they built over 20,000 of them. I thought maybe there were a couple of hundred. But that's why the accent thing. Just not that many posh people to go around.

    That game sounds fun. And I can readily understand how someone banging on about objectivism would have you reaching for the wrench (just to be parochial it should really be spanner, unless the game is set in the US I suppose).

    I'm looking forward to seeing how this ends. But no rush. Enjoy some downtime.

    I told you your namesake's dad was an author. One of his stories features an art deco restaurant under the Thames. It's very surreal but it so suits the tone of the story. He was a very innovative writer. Some ideas and concepts that have you thinking about them years later. He also got voted most misogynistic writer ever by some women's journal. One of his covers has actually featured on Mammoth.

  14. The Randian objectivism is well skewered. The city was made up of artists, writers, scientists, actors and... absolutely no working class whatsoever. Maintaining underwater cities it turns out needs more than being great at art. Add in a source of magical powers which is obsessively sold on the open market which drives the users (but not you handily) mad, and by the time you reach the architect of the project he is so sick of it all he forces you to beat him to death using one of his golf clubs.

    Also I need to take a break, I was so physically involved in eking my way bit by bit through the first two segments of the game last night/this morning I ended up stiff all over. Usually a good sign to take a step back for a day.

  15. No working classes whatsoever. So basically, West Didsbury?

    Hmm if I was going for a mercy kill I'm not sure I'd choose golf clubs. Whacked myself on the ankle once and that was bad enough (and still no idea how I managed that, it shouldn't even be physically possible!). And the last thing you want on a death certificate is 'death by niblick' (that's a type of club as you probably worked out from the context)

    You do make all these games seem interesting though. And now I can (sort of) follow some of those Fallout threads on Mammoth. I had an idea for an App game once. People seemed to like it, but haven't got the programming skills to make it.

    I can imagine how knackered you must get doing these posts. It's amazing how physically draining writing can be. Very satisfying though when you finally create something. But you take your time. If I need my fix of America heading towards civil war I'll just listen to the news.

  16. Being forced to beat the guy to death is an interesting commentary on the lack of agency you have in videogames. Your character has been brainwashed so the phrase "Would You Kindly" makes you do things, the fact you'd be doing them anyway is a subtle criticism of player railroading. "But Thou Must" as the TV Trope has it. I think it's a nine-iron you do the deed with, although death-by-niblick sounds funnier.

    It does take quite a bit of time writing up posts it is true, especially something like DMZ which is VERY heavy on text that requires boiling down. Matty definitely beats Frank Castle as top ruminator in comics!

    As for what's going on in the US now. heh, like I said before I had this series planned for now about midway through last year. I didn't realise it'd coincide with the actual fracturing of America.

  17. Ooh, now I'm trying to remember a song. Something like "Would you kindly, say goodbye". What is that one? Thinking Annie Lennox, but not sure.

    I've not really played any games where agency is an issue. The old 8 bit games were just you mowing a lawn (avoiding a dog) or shooting mutant camels (avoiding a lawsuit from George Lucas). And those point and click adventures I liked were of course very linear by design. That's why I found that 'sandbox' thing you told me about so interesting.

    Speaking of beating people to death, I suppose you know the old joke about the CIA recruits? Final test they're given a gun and told to go into a room and shoot the person in there. The first two guys go in. They see that the person tied to a chair is their wives and they can't go through with it. Then it's the woman's turn. She goes into the room and sees her husband tied up. There's a pause then a huge amount of noise. She emerges covered in blood.

    "I tried shooting him but the gun just had blanks in it, so I had to beat him to death with the chair."

  18. Classic games. Of course as I was playing Bioshock I realised it's a decade old now. I mean bloody hell, where does the time go? Still looks and plays really well though.

    I have heard that joke before, it's hilarious! There is something satisfying about beating enemies to death. My character has access to lots of guns and magical powers yet I still use my trusty wrench on everything bar the toughest of opponents.

  19. After annoying friends with tuneless whistling and half remembered lyrics I can report that song was "Will you" by Hazel O'Connor. And also that people are at work so stop pestering them.

    Ah, beating people to death, a perfect topic for a sunny Monday.

    To quote Futurama:

    Fry: "If the professor finds out he'll beat me to death!"

    Bender: "Nah. He'll probably get me to do it."

    Of course this is a topic I find interesting. I was watching some MMA matches over the weekend. Not usually that bothered but I've temporarily got access to a TV and it was the only thing on that wasn't Big Bang Theory. There's much debate about the practicalities of Krav and related systems from MMA enthusiasts. They're very keen on "BJJ is all you need!" But what I found reassuring was that one of the fights had to be stopped when someone got an accidental poke in the eye. It was only a light one but it took him out of the game completely. Funnily enough after 30+ years of contact lens wearing I'm not that bothered about eye jabs. Of course I do have that posterior vitreous detachment now. Ironically though that was just from being smacked in the head, nowhere near my eyes (other than that's near where I keep them)

    Humans can be surprisingly resilient to beatings. Generally 'finishing' moves involve some sort of neck trauma. But spanners and golf clubs are possibly force multipliers. Interesting forensic fact: you only get blood spatter evidence if there's more than one blow, so your first one is kind of a freebie from a CSI point of view.

    Speaking of which, to whet your appetite for when you borrow your sis's IT Crowd videos.

  20. A hammer, excellent choice Moss. For me it would be a toss up between the Bioshock wrench, or the Half Life crowbar. Funny how shooting games can have the best melee weapons.

    Also, how embarrassing to be taken out of a manly, man's fight with a poke in the eye. I tried an MMA videogame once, it mainly devolved to a ground game every match, while you wiggled sticks to get in and out of clinches which got a bit dull frankly. I much prefer Tekken, you get a nice blend of real moves, flashy moves and moves where you set your fist on fire and take out your opponent in one hit. Much more FUN.

  21. Eye pokes are a big issue in MMA.

    See here for how they're trying to reduce the occurrence:

    Just shows how effective they are in real life. Same with groin strikes. But a good way of developing a self defence syllabus is just to get the list of MMA fouls and learn those.

    Your game sort of mirrors real life MMA. It started out as sort of 'no rules' (or 'vale tudo' as they used to say) kick boxing. Then the Gracies arrived with their BJJ. That caused a lot of problems at first because they'd just tie up the big strikers on the ground and choke them. But then everyone caught on and started learning a bit of BJJ (which of course was the Gracies' intention all along) so now it's back to being a bit more balanced. Does get a bit boring if it's just all takedowns and grappling. It's just so easy to stalemate on the ground. Now the rules allow the ref to break it up if no one is making progress.

    BJJ is a useful base for some of the anti rape self defence, but it's the strikes and neck breaks that make the techniques effective. Otherwise again you're just holding someone off til one of you gets tired.

    Maybe we should have hybrid MMA/WWF. So real fights, but you can also bring a step ladder or a folding chair. Crowbar would be fun too. Of course, top ninja like me would just take it off you and then where would you be?

    Actually this just inspires me. Can't wait to show you this stuff. With the JKD background you'll be a natural.

  22. I think there is only one solution. Both fighters should wear blindfolds. I'd pay money to see that :D

    I do appreciate that the MMA videogame was trying to hew realistic but there is too realistic sometimes for me. Mind you I can be a lazy gamer, I managed to beat the first boxing game released on the Xbox 360 by rampant abuse of the haymaker move which got nerfed in later games, boo I say!

    I think I'm a wrench wench as I actually used to have a massive monkey wrench positioned by the door in the vary dodgy bedsit I lived in in Manchester. It got lost in my last move sadly, and I never got to bean a burgler with it.

    Also, hahahahaha, I did it and got todays post up on the day it was supposed to go up on. Written in-between screaming obscenities at the TV screen as I see my character die for the forty-eight bajillionth time.

  23. In real life haymakers are really easy to defend. Thats handy as it's the most common assault on men.

    But new post! I'm gonna head home, have some tea, then get reading. :-)