Mental Floss

Strange Geographies: Iraq in San Diego

Ransom Riggs
Ransom Riggs
Ransom Riggs / Ransom Riggs
facebooktwitterreddit

In the 70s, Stu Segall made porn movies. In the 80s he became a mini-mogul, building a studio in an industrial part of San Diego where he began producing low-budget movies and TV shows like

Silk Stalkings

. After 9/11, he built a mock Iraqi village in a neglected corner of the backlot, rarely used by film crews but frequently filled with marines, thousands of whom have run through intense training exercises there. I was at the studio for a few days last week to work on the set of a friend's film (not porn!), and I couldn't help exploring the empty Iraqi village while there. It's a strange and surreal place: barely-furnished rooms; facades with nothing but weeds behind them; plastic flowers and "Arab"-looking dummies made of foam; blank shell casings everywhere. It's not quite Iraq and it's definitely not San Diego; instead, it's nestled deep inside the uncanny valley.

IMG_0532
IMG_0532 /

Many of the rooms are covered with paintball splatter. I'm told that soldiers sometimes use paintball guns during "home invasion" exercises -- when accurate firing is especially important, one would imagine.

IMG_0393
IMG_0393 /
IMG_0353
IMG_0353 /

An Iraqi village bedroom. I can't explain the horse-themed blanket covering the door:

IMG_0395
IMG_0395 /
IMG_0348
IMG_0348 /

Some areas look a bit more realistic than others.

IMG_0683
IMG_0683 /

Many of the "houses" are empty shipping containers from China with a plywood room divider or two built in:

IMG_0705
IMG_0705 /

Others have nothing inside but garbage:

IMG_0689
IMG_0689 /

Empty shell casings are everywhere.

IMG_0697
IMG_0697 /

A fake Iraqi family's fake Iraqi laundry:

IMG_0733
IMG_0733 /

This is probably as close as I'll ever get to actually being in Iraq. (Also notice the cart full of plastic flowers, the most colorful thing in town.)

IMG_0728
IMG_0728 /

Just outside the village sits a moldering 747:

IMG_0422
IMG_0422 /

It's clearly been used for training exercises, as well -- evident from the paintball splatter throughout the plane. I would definitely not want to be on a flight where whatever they practice for here actually transpires.

IMG_0486
IMG_0486 /

Slim pickings on the 747's drink cart:

IMG_0721
IMG_0721 /

Elsewhere in the village, tables are stacked with busted-up computer equipment.

IMG_0425
IMG_0425 /

Weird: the reading selection in one of the houses. Weirder still: why someone would need Cliff's notes for

Anthem

, a novella of less than 150 pages.

IMG_0361
IMG_0361 /

A styrofoam chicken.

IMG_0118
IMG_0118 /

The wife -- or foam-based life partner, whichever you prefer -- of the man pictured at the top of the post.

IMG_0420
IMG_0420 /

You can check out more Strange Geographies columns here.

facebooktwitterreddit