Saturday Stories

I have a confession to make: I’m a news and pop culture fiend. I read multiple news/entertainment/culture/art websites every day and I often find a dozen things I want to talk about with people or share or RT or whatever. I don’t share them all, though, because I’m wary of over-posting, of being muted or hidden or whatever, and because I want what I share to have maximum engagement. Basically, I’m always trying to start a conversation, I’m always interested in going a little deeper than the skin, the surface read.

Of course, it doesn’t always happen. These days, it seems most people are either angling for ‘Likes’ or Retweets, as if they were points to be won in a game. Few people are actually interested in creating or sustaining a conversation, be it intellectual or frivolous. Well, I don’t think I’ll be able to change that, and I recognise now that I can’t really dictate what people are going to choose to talk about from the things I share, so I’m basically giving up on that front. I woke up today thinking about the last half dozen stories I’d read, unable to decide what to share, or which one was the most interesting, the most meaningful, etc.

It would be easier if the things I liked and cared about were a little less diffuse, if I could group them under one banner, but if you follow me anywhere on social media, I’m sure you recognise by now that I’m as close to functionally schizophrenic as anyone can be without an actual diagnosis. In any case, I’ve decided to group some of the stories I read this week in one post here on the blog. I’m not sure whether I’ll be doing this regularly or not, but here goes:

1. The Code: A Declassified and Unbelievable Hostage Rescue Story.

Clickbait headline aside, this is an incredible story. It’s about the Colombian army hiring an award-winning ad man with a history of being at odds with the FARC rebel army, to come up with a way to get a message to hostages held by armed guards. This wasn’t the first oddball request the army had given this ad-man, Juan Carlos Ortiz. “In 2008, he dreamed up an operation to persuade pregnant female guerrillas to defect: the army air-dropped 7 million pacifiers into the jungle with a message encouraging rebels to return to civilization. The operation involved seven helicopters, three airplanes, 960 flight hours, 17,800 gallons of fuel, and 72 soldiers flying twice a week for four months.”

It’s a truly fascinating read.

2. Why I Am Not Charlie (from the blog A Paper Bird)

Of all the endless thinkpieces that have been spawned by the tragedies in Paris, I found this one to be the most insightful. It said everything I’d have liked to say, only better. Well worth reading. For more background on the subject, you can also read this great piece by Chad Parkhill at Junkee.

3. Boko Haram Massacre 2,000 people in Nigeria

The actual number of people hasn’t been confirmed but they say “the indiscriminate killing went on and on and on.” The tragedies which occur daily in African countries do not get enough time or space in our media. Sadly, it seems to be only when those issues begin to affect Western countries, or white people, that they receive any traction in our own media sphere.

“A video recently emerged, Genocide Watch reported, that shows gunmen shooting civilians as they lay face down in a dormitory. A local leader explains they are “infidels,” even though he admits they’re Muslim: ‘We have made sure the floor of this hall is turned red with blood.'”

That last bit is especially important. It doesn’t matter to Boko Haram whether they’re killing Muslim people or anyone else; they are violently insane, and that’s all there is to it.

4. Strangers In Their Own Country by Etgar Keret

I’m a huge fan of Etgar Keret’s short stories, or indeed, any of his writing. Here he is underscoring how vital the upcoming elections in Israel are to the identity, the soul of the nation. It’s a very interesting piece, summing up recent events in that country.

5. Deathwinked by Vedran Husic

One of the best short stories I’ve read in a long time, just see the first paragraph:

We called sniper alley the alley of wolves. We were young and boys and had nicknames for everything, first of all the girls. There was the Nanny, the Epilogue, and the Soulcrusher. We thought these nicknames very clever, breathless with truth. We were thirteen and easily excited. To be killed by a sniper meant to be deathwinked, a verb. I came up with that. I had a minimum understanding of poetry, a maximum amount of fear.

6. Life Story by Tennessee Williams

A phenomenal poem that manages, better than any I’ve yet to read, to merge the comic with the poet. As a sometime professional comedy writer and sometime professional poet, how to combine these two separate and totally distinct mentalities has been on my mind for a while. This is the first definitive proof I’ve seen that it’s possible. It’s absolutely brilliant. Read it!

I have more of these, but again, I don’t want to oversaturate you, so I’ll just leave it at that. Hopefully among these news articles, short stories, poems, non-fiction and opinion pieces you’ll find something interesting. If not, feel free to share others!

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