Ian’s Peace

Watch this (thanks, MEM): On June 23, News & Observer photojournalists Travis Long, Takaaki Iwabu, Ethan Hyman, and Juli Leonard visited the Eno Quarry in Durham to shoot video and still images for an in-house project on the quarry. The group had envisioned a light piece on swimming hole culture.

A few weeks later, they were contacted by the family of 19-year-old Ian Creath, who had drowned in the quarry on July 9. The family sought the last-known video and photographs of him.

Eros’ Spell

John Barry: YBOR CITY – Long ago at the Columbia Restaurant, a waiter made his way through the tables, flaming cocktail teetering aboard his tray.

The drink was called “Spanish Flag on Fire.” It had been invented by Columbia’s flamboyant violinist/owner, Cesar Gonzmart. It was a mix of green Spanish Licor 43, red grenadine and Bacardi 151 rum – green, red and white, like the flag of Basque.

Waiters darkened the room and set the thing ablaze before they served it.

On this fateful night, the waiter tripped over a purse in the dark and dumped his “Spanish Flag on Fire” down a woman’s blouse. She ripped off her top. She wasn’t wearing anything under it.

Cesar, grasping violin and bow, rushed to her aid. He kissed her hand.

“You should not be embarrassed,” he said. “You have beautiful bosoms.”

Doing The Math

Tom Lake: TAMPA — The arena was cold and quiet and full of children. Nearly 400 of them, heads down, pencils in hand, deep in thought. It was nothing less than a thinking contest.

These were the Hillsborough County’s brightest students, or at least a good fraction of its future engineers and rocket scientists, and they came to the USF Sun Dome on Wednesday morning for something called the Winter Math Bowl. Each one had a story. Especially the boy with the sleepy eyes and the mountainous Afro.

This boy smiled regularly, but he was not here to play games. He came because he needed to win.

This boy had a plastic bag of change in his pocket. It was his lunch money, courtesy of his father, who had gathered it from around the house because he had no other money to give.

Inside The Surge

Jon Lee Anderson: Joint Security Station Thrasher, in the western Baghdad suburb of Ghazaliya, is housed in a Saddam-era mansion with twenty-foot columns and a fountain, now dry, that looks like a layer cake of concrete and limestone. The mansion and two adjacent houses have been surrounded by blast walls. J.S.S. Thrasher was set up last March, and is part of the surge in troops engineered by General David Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq. Moving units out of large bases and into Joint Security Stations—small outposts in Baghdad’s most dangerous districts—has been crucial to Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy, and Thrasher is now home to a hundred American soldiers and a few hundred Iraqis. This fall, on the roof of the mansion, amid sandbags, communications gear, and exercise equipment protected by a sniper awning, Captain Jon Brooks, Thrasher’s commander, pointed out some of the local landmarks. “This site was selected because it was the main body drop in Ghazaliya,” he said, indicating a grassy area nearby. “There were up to eleven bodies a week. Most were brutally mutilated.”

Storming The News Gatekeepers

Jose Antonio Vargas: NEW YORK — Aboard the crowded D train, rumbling into Brooklyn on the Manhattan Bridge, the inevitable rant explodes. A rant courtesy of Faye Anderson, whom we’ll call Ms. CJ, a.k.a. Citizen Journalist. A rant directed at us, Mr. MSM, a.k.a. Mainstream Media, for all our perceived faults.

“It’s not you, the journalist, it’s the institution,” Ms. CJ tells Mr. MSM. “You’re not telling the whole story. . . . You’ve lost your credibility.”

We listen, take notes, check if the tape recorder’s working. No telling what Anderson might do if she’s misquoted.

Brass Balls and Infinite Patience

Dorsey Kindler with William Langewiesche: Back in Davis, Langewiesche was about to finish his second Heineken when he mentioned one of his pet peeves – the mini-industry that had crept up around telling people how to write. It was mostly geared toward novelists, but it didn’t matter. The books could all be boiled down to one sentence: write well.

“There is no special club,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who your friends are. It doesn’t matter where you went to school. It only matters what you’re capable of providing now. Write well. Period. But of course if they said that there wouldn’t be that whole industry.”

Magazines, in Langewiesche’s opinion, are great beasts that have to be fed, constantly. If they’re not fed they die, and so they’re desperate for material. But they’re usually fed poorly. And people who say that the golden age is in the past are simply making excuses for their inability to write or publish high-quality journalism.

“You have this precious, incredibly privileged thing,” he said, “which is the reader’s attention for a little while. And you can make the slightest misstep and the reader will put you down. People will say that the reader lives in a busy world. But that’s not the reason why. The reason is that the writer blows it, and loses the reader’s trust.”

Hunting For Militants

Chivers: First Lt. Aaron W. Childers stood before a doorway inside a mud-walled compound while an Afghan and American patrol searched behind him. Paratroopers swept metal detectors over the dusty ground, looking for buried weapons and ammunition.

Happy Thanksgiving

Here’s to getting better, and to helping each other along the way. Happy Thanksgiving.

Dar Williams:

Amber called her uncle, said “We’re up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay.”
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, “It’s Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style,”
She said, “Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it’s been awhile,”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said, Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, “Is it true that you’re a witch?”
His mom jumped up and said, “The pies are burning,” and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, “It’s true, your cousin’s not a Christian,”
“But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere,”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from? I think magic’s in the learning,
‘Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, “Really, no, don’t bother.”
Amber’s uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn’t spoken in a year,
He thought he’d call him up and say, “It’s Christmas and your daughter’s here.”
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve, saying,
“Can I be a Pagan?” Dad said, “We’ll discuss it when they leave.”

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.

Humanitarian Crisis

Gettleman: The people here are hungry, exposed, sick and dying. And the few aid organizations willing to brave a lawless, notoriously dangerous environment cannot keep up with their needs, like providing milk to the thousands of babies with fading heartbeats and bulging eyes.

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Trojan Force

Eric Neel: “At some point — maybe after your parents have died and you’re not trying to please them anymore — at some point you have to decide what truly matters to you and what you believe in. And then you have to have the balls to commit to it.”

There’s something testimonial about the way he says it, plainly, over a bowl of chocolate ice cream, straight-up, as if it were something already said. I don’t know whether we’re talking about him or me.

“Meeting’s at 3 tomorrow. See you there,” Carroll says. He walks away, maybe six or seven steps down the hall, and turns back. “You know what 3 is, right?” I look at him quizzically. “It’s 2:45,” he says.