Last Saturday I was invited to participate as a panelist at the first ever Milblog Conference sponsored by Military.Com and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I had a fantastic time and met a whole bunch of kindred spirits. It was a combination evangelical tent revival and family reunion. Andi of Andi's World was the prime organizer of the event and she's done a super follow-up job at her site.
The overarching theme of this gathering centered on the passion milbloggers have for sharing their story-matched only by the equally fanatical desire of our readers to find, follow, encourage and support us. (I'm reminded of Norman Rockwell's WWII painting for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post-Homecoming Marine - a newly returned gyrene, clutching a Japanese battle flag, relates his war experiences to the eager ears of neighborhood boys and the guys at his old workplace.) To a person, we milbloggers are amazed how these simple internet diaries, universally started to keep family and friends informed, have taken on a life all their own. Our journals became journalism. Our first hand reporting was countering second hand media retorting. Milblogging's authentic in the trenches voice continues to challenge the reporting of the main stream media, and on a daily basis is calling them out on the carpet. We built them and you came....by the tens and hundreds of thousands. Thank you! Staid institutions like the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, during this rapid unfolding of history, are hemoraging readership while the ranks of blog readers is swelling...traditional journalism is rapidly becoming journalwasm. Speaker after speaker referenced two newly published books which help explain both the phenomena and the impact blogging is having-The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman and An Army of Davids by Glenn Reynolds.
I wore a second hat at the Milblog Conference. The BBC, who interviewed me twice while I was in New Orleans earlier in the month, asked me to do interviews for them at the conference. One of the interviews (half way thru the podcast)was with Deborah Scranton, director of a documentary produced in collaboration with soldiers of a New Hampshire National Guard unit. The documentary, entitled The War Tapes made its debut at the Tribeca film festival and recieved a rave review from The New York Times. Ms. Scranton, along with one of the "stars" of the film, Specialist Michael Moriarity, came to the Milblog Conference out of solidarity with our movement, and to acknowledge the influence our blogs have been on her as a film maker. Go see it when it comes to town. Her website has a list of screenings open to the public.
Another high point this week was the portfolio review, acceptance and invitation extended to a new artist to join the Marine Corps Combat Art Program. Kris Battles, a former Marine sergeant and reservist, discovered this blog last winter and immediately contacted us about participating in the program. Kris is a professional portrait and landscape painter living in St. Augustine, Florida. We're excited about this addition to the line up and expect great things from this talented Marine. Over the next few months Kris will be in-processing back into the Marine Reserve. One of the great things about being a Marine is you only have to go to boot camp once! (In fact, only Marines can enlist into any other branch of the military without ever attending their particular boot camp.)
I continue to work in my studio on prelimary sketches and studies for my first major work of the year. The tentative title is going to be Storm and Stone. It's based on my experiences last May in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment. This unit was responsible for three wild and wooly provinces on the border with Pakistan. The foothills of the Tora Bora Mountains and the valleys of the Pech and Kunar Rivers are spectacularly beautiful, and ruggedly impassable. More to come as the work progresses.
Like most of you I've watched with interest the debut of another film this week, United 93. A retired Marine gunny friend of mine called yesterday after seeing the film and was virtually delerious with rage.....at the hijackers and at those who oppose the War in Iraq and on Terrorism. Every American, according to him, should be required to see this film. I've seen trailers of it and have listened to commentary on the radio about Flight 93. I don't know that I can go see it just yet. Just getting a tiny wiff of the film's content and hearing the impact it's having on moviegoers makes my jarhead meter peg way in the red. My friend, Gunny H., is a much calmer guy than I, and if he said he had to literally physically restrain himself during the last 45 seconds, the final assault on the cockpit scene, then I would have to be straight jacketed, sedated and hung upside down from a crane to keep me from bodily attacking the screen. I kid ye not. I'm Irish, and when my blood is up, Katy bar the door!
My thoughts this week about Flight 93 have been tempered by the protest this weekend in Washington, DC about the genocide in the Darfur Province of Sudan. Finally the left is picking a worthy cause to champion! Even they realize only the United States and Britain have the necessary kahoonies to do anything about this tragic and reprehensible situation. I hope and pray this time, with the support of the libs, we don't fail the Darfurians the way a previous administration allowed the slaughter in Rwanda in 1996 to go unchallenged and unmet by the UN. I still consider myself liberal and progressive on many issues. Author Victor Davis Hanson's muscular idealism resonates deeply with me. Another sign of hope, and evidence of a healthy self-examination and adjustment on the left is something called the Euston Manifesto.
I'm finally getting the hang of hyperlinking! Enjoy. I used to feel like the last analog guy in a digital world. You can teach an old devildog new tricks.