Thursday, April 29, 2010

Three vet-authors walk into a bar ...

And things get hazy after that.

Background info: I attended a veteran-author panel, hosted by New York City College of Technology. The panel includes Colby Buzzell, author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq, among others. I've corresponded a few times with Colby over the years, mainly because his book rocked. We decide to hit the bars up later that night with some other new friends.

Fast forward some hours later - just as I'm putting on my drinking shoes for the short trek to the East Village, I get a text from Toby Nunn, author of Northern Disclosure, saying that he's in the City and looking for a watering hole. (I had met Toby a few weeks back at the Milblogging conference in DC, and we swapped digits). Then I show up at the dive bar in question, and in turns out Colby and Toby served in the same unit in Iraq.

Small world, smaller military, smallest milblogger world.

Anyways, all this time in New York City has made me soft (somewhere Staff Sergeant Boondock cringes), and my ability to drink like a soldier, and with soldiers, has seriously diminished. This photograph is the only proof, in my memory or otherwise, that the other night even happened.

Good News for Me, Bad News for the Interwebz

After a year or so of drifting, writing, readjusting, and hanging out, I've finally figured out what I'm going to do with my life next couple years - I've accepted an admissions offer to Columbia University's Islamic Studies MA program. It's an interdisciplinary program, so I'll be able to take a healthy mix of both history and literature courses. Blame Suge. Hours and hours in the back of a Stryker discussing Middle Eastern culture and history finally got to me. (Now, how accurate his portrayals of the Muslim world were is something I'll determine in my future studies. Suge subscribed wholeheartedly to the 10% rule in storytelling.)

This will also allow me to stay in the NYC, which I've started to really dig recently. City Girl approves as well, which definitely played a factor with all of this.

Why is this bad news for you? Easy. Like every graduate student with a blog, I'll be sure to bombard this site with revelations I interpret as sweeping pronouncements, and hollowed-out universal truths discovered in a few sentences. You've been warned!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Article in the Huffington Post on the DADT repeal


Something tells me some of you military peeps may have something to say about this.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Radio interview with Word of Mouth

Solid interview with New Hampshire Public Radio's Word of Mouth, who wanted to know more about Suge Knight, what I think about the Afghanistan Surge, and what Michael Yon needs more than anything right now.


A collective LOL moment at Nicholas Sparks

I may be a bit late on this - but please join me in a collective "LOL" moment, directed at Nicholas Sparks. (Brought to you by your friends at Millennial Acronym). He compares himself to Hemingway, and criticizes Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian for being "overwrought."

Sparks is a fool




(If I ever display that lack of self-awareness, be it as a writer or as a person in general, you have my permission to punch me in the face).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Open Apology to (some of) New Jersey

Dear (some of) New Jersey-

Over the years, I've made some facetious jokes at your state's expense. Sure, the hyperbolic awesomeness of MTV's Jersey Shore didn't help, nor did some of your natives that I've met over the years. I even claimed in "Kaboom" (exaggerating, of course) that LT Dirty Jerz was the only non-scumbag I'd ever met from your state.

But today, I had a book event in the charming slice of Americana known as Clinton, at the Clinton Book Shop. And literally everyone I met at the event, employees and customers alike, was friendly and welcoming and stereotype-busting. It was like, mind-blowing, yo. And it begs the question - all those times that my friends from Jersey told me that there were actually nice parts of the state, beyond the swamplands and hair gel factories - had they actually been correct? And really, being from Nevada, who was I in the first place to cast state stones?

So, yes, interwebz. I was both wrong about New Jersey and (some) New Jerseyites.

I just hope this is an isolated case, and not part of a trend of grand sweeping proclamations being proven inaccurate through experience. Because my mind can only be blown so many times a year before I proclaim that the more I learn, the less I know.

Somebody should write that last part down. That's quotable.

Memo to the Free World

The gulf between American society and the warrior caste that protects it is both very real and very wide. Many profound, serious articles have been written wondering how to best address this, including a personal favorite Here, by LTC Paul Yingling, in the Armed Forces Journal. 

What follows is probably not profound. But it is seriously serious, with a serious cherry on top. But not a Maraschino cherry. I hate those things.

(short version: rabble rabble rabble!)

Long version:

A basic guideline for civilian pukes: topics not to discuss with combat veterans, under any circumstances, ever, ever, lasting forever:

1) If your husband/sister/grandpa served, yes, we'd like to hear about it. If you're boyfriend/cousin/neighbor's dog talked about signing up, because they were "totally like, inspired by 9/11," but decided not to, we don't care. Let me reiterate: WE DON'T CARE. Sometimes in these cases, tragic circumstances keep said neighbor's dog from signing up, but usually it's because they're all bluster, and no testicles. (Or ovaries, as it were. I'm a 21st century kind of dude, you dig?) Personally, I have a lot more respect for the hippies that are truly anti-war, than the posers who look the part and do every Navy SEAL workout found in "Mens Health," but couldn't bring themselves to leave their bubble. Vets earned the respect and gratitude that comes from civilians. Clowns that slap a yellow bumper sticker on their Beamer and have a tanning bed in their living room do not. 

2) No. It's not like "The Hurt Locker." At all. Next question.

3) Unless you are excessively close with said veteran, or both of you are ridiculously, mind-numbingly, brain blasting intoxicated, do not ask them how many (insert ethnic slur here) they killed. Mainly because hajji/camel jockey/raghead/etc. sounds ridiculous coming out of your mouth. You enunciate it all wrong, and lack the knowing disgust such a slur must carry to sound pragmatically effective, rather than awkwardly racist. Further, generally speaking, the Desert wasn't the Bush. We're aware. We were there. 

4) Maybe it's because I live in New York City - supposedly one of the lowest vet/citizen ratios in the country - but don't stare at me like I'm a green zebra when you find out I'm a vet. Dear God man, I went to war for fifteen months, I'm not a mutant with four arms and a tentacle for a stomach. No, I didn't kill babies, and clearly, I wasn't on steroids. Real talk, true story - constantly being surrounded by yuppies/hipsters/goths/guidos/general freaks is starting to wear on me. 

5) Avoid the tired stereotypes of yesteryear. No, my former soldiers didn't join the military to escape jail. No, they aren't all trying to earn their citizenship. And no, most of them are actually quite bright and did/could've/will go to college. Almost to a man, they are more honorable, more noble, and more purpose-oriented than the entire glut of degenerate scum we now see around us. Now stop yapping before I make a decision of violence that City Girl will yell at me for tomorrow.

/end rant

Seriously though - as I touched upon in the green zebra piece for the Sandbox - there are some fantastic ways for civilians to approach their veteran friends. Just don't probe too deep. We'll talk and reveal on our own terms. In the mean time, buy the next round of social lubrication. Vets of all ages, branches, and walks of life can and will appreciate such a gesture.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kaboom in the Dirty Jerz

I'll be doing a book event for "Kaboom" at the Clinton Book Shop tomorrow (Sunday) at 1pm, in Clinton, New Jersey. Hope to see you there!

Here's a link to the event.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Milblogging, Carson Daly, and 'N Sync

JP from posted a story earlier tonight regarding my "quest" to appear on the Carson Daly show, Last Call. A fair amount of milbloggers have retweeted it on the Twitter machine and such. JP's absolutely correct - to be interviewed by the same guy who once graced JC Chasez and the Fat 'N Sync guy with his presence would be a dream come true.

Seriously though, it'd be cool if this comes to fruition, although I'm a bit skeptical it could work. (I'm a writer, and you know, not pretty). That said, I'm up for anything that displays the power and effectiveness of the milblogging community, as it's made up of some of the most sincere and dedicated people I've ever met. And if I'm able to hype up my book at the same time, cool beans.

Here's the Milblogging story.

Come on Carson, let's do this! I'll make you quiver like a middle school girl during the TRL era. (I mean that as platonically as possible).

Michael Yon is a Dick (and so was I)

If you're not familiar with the Michael Yon brouhaha in Afghanistan, here's a good rundown. Short version: embedded journalist and author of Moment of Truth in Iraq makes a cryptic post on Facebook, saying General McChrystal is in over his head. Milblogging community reacts, generally stating that Yon is burned out and needs a break. Yon replies, stating that milbloggers are largely a "hurricane of hot air."

Unlike a lot of milbloggers, I don't know Yon. I've read his stuff, and while it's a little preachy for my taste, it's generally a decent read. And he may very well be right about General McChrystal, I have no idea. But that doesn't change the fact that he's displaying classic dick tendencies right now, something, some of you may remember, I did myself, back in 2008.

First, I'm inclined to point out that the term "hurricane of hot air" is a bit redundant, but that's beside the point. The Facebook post in question, the ones since, his updates on his website ... they're now all about him. The personal story of Yon getting picked on and shut out of information sessions has taken precedence over the story of the whole; i.e. the war. He hints at grander conspiracy, does his best martyr impression, and promises revenge. These are classic burnout symptoms.

When I posted this in 2008, I was in the same state. Exhausted. Strung out. Convinced no one cared about the war effort except me and those immediately around me. Sure, my post had some good points, but that doesn't mean I should have posted it. Yon may very well be right about General McChrystal (though I doubt it - everyone I know who works/worked for him is convinced he's a national treasure), but he of all people knows the power of the internet. I mocked middle management and bureaucracy. He's calling into question the leadership and prowess of our top man in the war. For all the flag-waving and chest-beating that usually peppers Yon's words, this sudden 180 screams of a burnout desperate for attention, and even more desperate for a break.

And then Yon attacked the milblogging community, most of whom treaded on this subject very carefully and tactfully. And these are the people that made him. That donation button on the side of his website? Who do you think was clicking it all those years, Code Pink? Who helped spread his message and accounts? Not the mainstream media. And this is how he repays them? Again, classic burnout syndrome - lashing out at those who helped him the most.

Yon also attempts to have a junk-measuring contest with the milblogging community, by self-righteously claiming that no one has spent the amount of time in theater that he has. Maybe true, maybe not. Kind of irrelevant, though. You're a journalist dude, not a soldier. You can leave whenever you want, come and go as you please, and don't spend your days filling sandbags, nor your nights pulling guard duty, shivering on a roof. No matter how much you want to be, you're not one of them anymore.

One last caveat - I don't know General McChrystal, either. Closest I ever came to him was having to deal with his black ops teams in Iraq, usually when they were blowing stuff up and giving us landowners serious heartburn. So this isn't an Andrew Exum-Jon Krakauer thing, debating whether or not grandpa is brilliant or a conspiracist. I have no dog in this fight. I'm just a dude with a book, a book that happened because of milbloggers, telling another dude with a book, a book that also happened because of milbloggers, that he's being a dick.

My mid-tour leave in the Mediterranean cured a lot of my ills (the dickish ones and otherwise) back in 2008. Strolls along the beach, beers in the park, and a lot of sleep. Here's hoping Yon gets some of the same soon, and then returns back to his actual job in Afghanistan - war reporting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Kaboom links

I'll be leaving the Kaboom archives up, but deleting all the publicity/marketing links for it. Just seems tainted to mix them with all the old posts straight from the Suck, you know? So, here's a collection of links thus far for/related to Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War. Some were posted on the the Kaboom blog site, some weren't.

New E-Digs

As I'm no longer writing from war, this transition is long overdue. This will be more of a blog in the classical sense (if blogs can be considered classical ... probably not) than Kaboom was - a mix of various stuff from my existence that some of you may find worth reading about. I'm interested in counterinsurgency, and will write about it, but this won't be a counterinsurgency blog. Conversely, I'm interested in hipster music, but this won't be a hipster blog, either. There will be some war stuff, and some literary stuff, and some Kaboom publicity stuff, and sure enough, some random, rambler stuff. Maybe even some guest posts from my much brighter, less degenerate friends. Some of it may stick, some of it may not, but I promise the interwebz this - I will never be so mundane so as to tell you what I ate for breakfast this morning.

I already have Twitter for that.


(Postscript: I killed the Killers, and they won't be returning. I still love that band, but even I can't listen to that song anymore. Blame Saddam. None of us would be at this point if it weren't for him.)