This past weekend I flew to Colorado to attend the inaugural WLA (War, Literature and the Arts) Conference, hosted at the Air Force Academy. I'll admit now to being a bit nervous - the very nature of conferences rattle my introvert bones. But I really can't overstate how much I learned and how much I enjoyed myself, simply by being in the presence of other military nerds.
Some random thoughts thought (and subsequently written) randomly:
1) Dexter Filkins, one of the keynote speakers and author of The Forever War, was as informed as anyone I've ever heard speak on the subject of Afghanistan. Dude is legit.
2) Pre-order Siobhan Fallon's You Know When the Men Are Gone right ... now. I had the pleasure of speaking on the same panel as her, and she is as nice as she is professional. On top of it, her book is really, really good. I started it on the airplane back to New York, and will finish it just as soon as City Girl gives it back to me, as it was immediately confiscated for her reading pleasure.
3) Captain Jesse Goolsby, who teaches war literature and creative writing at the Air Force Academy, put the whole conference together pretty much all by his lonesome. He's also an excellent writer himself - his stuff has been published in a number of literary magazines, including the host publication, The WLA Journal.
4) Mark Boal, the screenwriter for The Hurt Locker, deserves to get punched in the face. (There, someone said it.) It's no secret how I and many Iraq veterans feel about the film; I've since mellowed on it a bit, realizing that it called attention to veterans' issues for the American public, no matter how inaccurately, and that's an important thing for our society. While answering some questions at the WLA Conference though, Boal (another keynote speaker) came off as abrupt and patronizing, in my opinion. He simultaneously claimed The Hurt Locker attempted to "stay true to the realities on the ground" while preemptively reminding the audience "this is fiction" and "not a manual." Doublespeak, at it's finest - if it's fiction, don't present and market it otherwise. Because if you do, you better be ready to deal with the critiques of subject matter experts - in this case, Iraq vets. When I pressed this point, asking him how he and his team blended these two conflicting ideas creatively, he said that they never made creative compromises - only logistical (i.e. financial) ones. This came after he admitted the fallacious sniper scene was included because of its "cool" factor. And don't even get me started on how blatant uniform fuck-ups somehow become logistical issues ... I could ramble about this topic for hours, so I'll just stop here. /END RANT
5) I really wish I hadn't missed Brian Turner's poetry reading on Saturday afternoon, but time constraints burned me, berry berry badly.
5) There's a bunch of other people, books, and ideas not getting mentioned here that deserve to, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment, and have places to go, people to see, papers to write.
Oh, and yeah, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver was insane for all the right reasons. Though I'm still sweating pretzel, for some reason.