Say hi to Mosul Eye

The AP has an incredible story about an Iraqi man named Omar Mohammed who courageously chronicled the savagery of the Islamic State as an undercover blogger, using the moniker Mosul Eye:

For nearly two years, he’d wandered the streets of occupied Mosul, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by IS. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and deaths by stoning, so he could hear the killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.

He wasn’t a spy. He was an undercover historian and blogger. As IS turned the Iraqi city he loved into a fundamentalist bastion, he decided he would show the world how the extremists had distorted its true nature, how they were trying to rewrite the past and forge a brutal Sunni-only future for a city that had once welcomed many faiths.

Working at Mosul University when the city fell in June 2014 to the extremists, he decided to start gathering information:

By day, he chatted with Islamic State fighters and vendors, and observed. Always observed. By night, he wrote in his native Arabic and fluent English on a WordPress blog and later on Facebook and Twitter. The city turned dark, and Mosul Eye became one of the outside world’s main sources of news about the Islamic State fighters, their atrocities and their transformation of the city into a grotesque shadow of itself. The things IS wanted kept secret went to the heart of its brutal rule.

As you’d imagine, the IS thugs weren’t too happy about the Mosul Eye:

When the only Mosul residents left were fellow Sunnis, they too were not spared, according to the catalog of horrors that is Mosul Eye’s daily report. He detailed the deaths and whippings, for spying and apostasy, for failing to attend prayers, for overdue taxes. The blog attracted the attention of the fanatics, who posted death threats in the comments section.

Spoiler: he makes it out OK, but read the whole story to learn about a modern hero.

Books Teach Me How to Dewey Writing

DDC 070-079: Carryin’ the banner

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

The Rundown:

  • 070 Journalism, and newspapers
  • 071 Newspapers in North America
  • 072 Newspapers in British Isles; in England
  • 073 Newspapers in central Europe; in Germany
  • 074 Newspapers in France & Monaco
  • 075 Newspapers in Italy & adjacent islands
  • 076 Newspapers in Iberian Peninsula & adjacent islands
  • 077 Newspapers in eastern Europe; in Russia
  • 078 Newspapers in Scandinavia
  • 079 Newspapers in other geographic areas

Extra! Extra! Get your papes heeya, Jack Kelly. We continue along the general theme of writing, books, and cultural institutions with The Newspaper in all its storied, soon-to-be-antiquated glory. While I was disappointed not to find a comprehensive history of that classic 1992 Disney musical/bad-accent-party Newsies, I found a lot of books on journalism or by journalists, along with (diving back into meta-ness) a lot on writing and publishing and the challenges therein, which actually seem to be good resources for aspiring authors. Once again, the books in my library were limited almost exclusively to two digits (070 and 071); apparently Scandinavian newspapers don’t fit within the the collection purview of a Midwestern public library.

As a writer myself, I struggle with how much writing about writing I should read. On the one hand it’s helpful to learn how other seemingly successful writers struggle through the quotidian difficulties of the writing life. On the other hand, it’s easy to get bogged down in reading about writing and not actually get your own writing done. It’s the same thing with the modern trends of “lifehacking” and productivity: so many new apps and web tools make promises of increased productivity and streamlined life, but when I focus so much on the tools themselves I get fixated on the tool instead of the product it’s supposed to help create.

Or maybe I’m overthinking it.

The Dew3:

What Kind of Loser Indie Publishers? And How Can I Be One, Too?
By Pamela Fagan
Dewey: 070.593 HUT
Random Sentence: “Did you just throw up a little in your mouth?”

Beg, Borrow, Steal: A Writer’s Life
By Michael Greenberg
Dewey: 070.92 GRE
Random Sentence: “Purged of empathy, I joined in the protective cynicism of the courthouse employees.”

Red Blood & Black Ink: Journalism in the Old West
By David Dary
Dewey: 071 DAR
Random Sentence: “That’s just the way with juries – they think it no more wrong to shoot an editor than a Jack-rabbit.”

Books Libraries Teach Me How to Dewey

DDC 050-059: Killer serials

A Teach Me How To Dewey production

The Rundown:

  • 050 General serials & their Indexes
  • 051 Serials in American English
  • 052 Serials in English
  • 053 Serials in other Germanic languages
  • 054 Serials in French, Occitan & Catalan
  • 055 Serials in Italian, Romanian & related languages
  • 056 Serials in Spanish & Portuguese
  • 057 Serials in Slavic languages
  • 058 Serials in Scandinavian languages
  • 059 Serials in other languages

Journalism, the saying goes, is the first draft of history. It takes the first stab at what’s going on the in the world, with the assumption that future historians will take that draft and make corrections, additions, and judgements with the benefit of distance. With this in mind, bringing all those “first drafts” together into one publication (like the examples below do) creates a different and unique dynamic, where an overarching story emerges out of a series of first drafts–a whole that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It’s fun to walk through the whole history of something and see how certain events were experienced at the time compared to how they are interpreted today.

The Dew3:

Paper Dreams: Writers and Editors on the American Literary Magazine
Edited by Travis Kurowski
Dewey: 051 PAP
Random Sentence: “In those days, in Iowa City, twenty-five dollars bought a hell of a lot of beer.”

Time: The Illustrated History of the World’s Most Influential Magazine
Edited by Norberto Angeletti
Dewey: 051.09 ANG
Random Sentence: “This was a fascinating, maddening, challenging, and ultimately expanding experience.”

The Classic Era of American Pulp Magazines
By Peter Haining
Dewey: 051.09 HAI
Random Sentence: “It was pretty young girls that evildoers invariably had it in for.”

Cool Civil War Names History

Sylvanus Cadwallader

Couldn’t find a picture of ol’ Syl, so here’s his book cover.

Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.

Probably my favorite name thus far. A true journalist during a time when mainstream journalism consisted of BRASH, HYSTERICAL HEADLINES!!! and Limbaughesque vituperation, Cadwallader began his newspaper career in Milwaukee before joining the Chicago Times and later the New York Herald as a war correspondent embedded with General Ulysses S. Grant. (He wrote about this time in Three Years With Grant, an acclaimed postwar memoir.) He followed Grant for three years through critical campaigns in Mississippi and Tennessee, during the advance on Richmond, and was present at Appomattox for the peace treaty signing.

He’s also the source of the hotly debated claim that Grant was drunk during the Vicksburg campaign in 1863. Embellishment or fact? Who knows. What we do know is Grant sent Cadwallader a letter in September 1864 commending him for his reporting. Clearly “Unconditional Surrender” Grant wasn’t too upset with him.

After the war, Cadwallader served as a public official in Wisconsin before retiring to California to write his memoir. I haven’t read it yet, but the scant information about him that’s available tells us his journalism was exemplary simply because he wasn’t a fire-breathing partisan like many of his colleagues. A low bar, it seems, but he passed it.

Up next in CCWN, the churlish CLEMENT L. VALLANDIGHAM.