First Professional Byline

My first professional byline appeared in print on Saturday at Reverb Press, my new home.

It can be found here:

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Shawkan’s Latest Delay

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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June 13: The next hearing in the ongoing trial of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” will be held on Tuesday, July 4, it was learned today.

An additional three weeks. For a human rights trial noteworthy for its glacial pace, this is the latest example of the trial’s simple inhumanity. One more delay is a delay; years of delays are a lifetime.

Today is Shawkan’s 1400th day in prison.
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Never Would Have Imagined …

The ink is not yet wet on the contract, but I will be printing one out and signing it this weekend.

Last week, a journalist contacted me: Would I be interested in writing for a particular website? Sure, I replied, if they’re interested in me, I would reciprocate the interest. For money, he explained.

I was not listening to a vinyl record at that moment, but a needle scratched to a halt somewhere in the world just then. “What’s that again?”
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JFK at 100: A Personal Reflection

President John F. Kennedy laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 1963. The photo at top is from that day, May 30, 1963. By the end of that year, President Kennedy joined the company of dead service members buried there.

President Kennedy would be 100 today, which coincidentally is this year’s Memorial Day.
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For Those Left Behind: Memorial Day 2017

“Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly—but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation.”—Ernie Pyle, World War II journalist, writing about what he saw at the front. Killed in action April 18, 1945.

I do not come from a family that talks much about its military service. My father was drafted in 1958, served his two-year-long tour, and then came back home to a job that had been held for him. This was during the Cold War, so he did not see action but he did see more of the world than he had up till then, or since. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Cold War as a calculator tasked with determining missile flight paths. (I believe he worked with the Atlas missile, an early ICBM model.)
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Another Ten Days

A journalist’s job is to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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For the second time this month, the usual adjournment in the ongoing trial of Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the Egyptian photojournalist who goes by the name “Shawkan,” will be ten days rather then one month, which had been the usual postponement length. Shawkan’s next court appearance will be Tuesday, May 30.

Perhaps it means nothing at all.

The photo of Shawkan at top was taken in court today. It is reported that Shawkan’s medical documents were reviewed and that he is “in good condition.” “Good condition” can be a sliding scale: it has long been known that Shawkan has Hepatitis C and his lawyers have reported in the past that essential medications for that illness have been sporadically administered by the prison authorities.

Ten more days. For a human rights trial noteworthy for its glacial pace, perhaps the fact of a briefer delay until the morning that Shawkan can have his case heard means something, but this trial rebuffs all attempts to interpret its tiny shifts and huge delays.

Today is Shawkan’s 1375th day in prison.
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One Hundred Billion Versions of Silence

Will these names be spoken by American officials this weekend in Saudi Arabia: Raif Badawi, Ali Mohamed al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abdullah al-Zaher, Ashraf Fayadh?

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The president of the United States will have one hundred billion reasons after this weekend to ignore the facts about the nation he chose as his first foreign destination: Saudi Arabia. He and his already embattled administration chose Saudi Arabia as the location of his first summit abroad—rather than Canada or Mexico, which U.S. presidents traditionally visit first—for a photo op: the president with King Salman and a game-show-style giant check between them.

The United States and Saudi Arabia will announce this weekend that Saudi Arabia will purchase at least $100 billion worth of military equipment, software, and ongoing expertise from American military contractors. Some military business experts estimate that after a decade the deals will be worth three hundred billion dollars.

“The customer is always right,” goes the old retail cliché, and there are two parts to a customer’s continual rightness: the customer has a right to complain about the product purchased or the service in the store no matter what, and the service has a duty to remain silent about the customer’s behavior, even when it is offensive.
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On Broadway!

A continuing series: How to Be AwkwardTM, by Mark Aldrich.

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Noises Off is one of the most popular comic plays of the last forty years. If you have ever seen it performed, you know it can be hilarious; the film version proved that there are some plays that can not be made into movies because they are so completely theatrical.

This is a story about the original Broadway production and an apology from me to Victor Garber, who starred in it.
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