The “Surmountable” Kickstarter project is funded as of March 1 at $15,011 with over 80 backers. The trip to scenes of historic protests around the United States and around the world begins immediately. Thanks to all of our backers for supporting this adventurous and ambitious project. I will be blogging from each destination throughout March and April, starting in San Francisco. USA destinations will include Seattle/ Vancouver, Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, Charleston, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., the Alice Paul Institute in Mount Laurel New Jersey and New York City.
On the day of my flight out of the U.S., this Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster. I like it.
Month One of “War: The Afterparty” in Central America turned out to be an excellent test case. I learned my way around airbnb, mobile WordPress, traveling without a command of the local language, keeping to a $60/day budget and (the shortcomings of) my gear. I also experienced the time-management balancing-act required in procuring, performing, transcribing and posting the interviews in real time.
I wrote my Dauphin, Dorian and Dead novel on my iPad 1 while traveling in Thailand, and loved the instant access and portability. On my month in Guatemala/ Nicaragua/ Panama, my 3 year old iPad 3 was a miserable solution. Two differences. One, as the device ages, it hangs on apps like WordPress, especially when trying to post images or video. And it has insufficient storage and battery life. So here is the new configuration:
11″ MacBook Air. 9 hours battery life. 128 GB.
iPhone 6. 9 hours battery life. 128 GB storage. Big improvement over 4s (my 5s suffered a drowning incident in my pool).
500GB USB external HD.
Sony 10,000 mAh Dual USB Travel Charger.
LOTS of extra plugs and cables.
Tapscam iM2 Channel Portable Digital Recorder. Snaps onto iPad or older iPhones.
Ancient iPhone (3?) that serves as, 1) Tapscam recording device, and 2) something to give an un-tech savvy mugger who demands an iPhone.
Also, shoes. My Ecco sneakers were insufficient for both long treks and formal interview meetings. So I got a great price on Eddie Bauer Departure Slip-Ons.
A bigger challenge was stuffing 3 continents worth of wardrobe into my backpack. How do you pack for Serbian winter, Middle East desert and Southeast Asia humidity? One solution: I took my oldest winter clothes to wear in Europe and I’ll just donate them somewhere upon arrival in Abu Dhabi.
The Kickstarter campaign funded on the day of my flight to London. First, you don’t get the money until you reach the end of the campaign and fully fund (October 8, 100% of 62 pledges funded). Then, Kickstarter and Amazon Payments take two weeks to authorize release of the funds; a week later if any pledgers are late in fulfilling. Then, it takes up to 5 business days to hit your bank for withdrawal.
The itinerary is firming up. Central America brought a treasure trove of interviews (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama). I am weighing how much time to spend transcribing and writing about the remaining meetings versus focusing on new interviews and material. Southeast Asia is locked in for January; Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have manageable visa policies. I started the project on my birthday, August 4, 50 years after the Gulf of Tonkin incident that launched the escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. I hope to finish the trip on a Vietnamese town on the Gulf on February 4th.
Serbia will be the focus for Europe, with exploration of the Belgrade NATO bombardment, Bosnia and Kosovo. I will be in Berlin for the 25th anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall on November 9th, and will visit several other cities on the way for a look at the historic roots of communism, colonialism and the intersection of militarism and commerce.
Writing from the Imperial War Museum in London, I’m curious how a country comes to believe that it is an instrument of divine providence, is above the rules proscribed for other nations, and requires aggressive projection of its military power in every corner of the global to protect its vital interests.
Frequently Asked Questions from the Kickstarter site for “War”The Afterparty”
Updated FAQ available throughout the project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wartheafterparty/war-the-afterparty#project-faqs.
I am astonished that a smart, principled world leader like the United States of America can get itself into quagmires like Iraq and Vietnam. The spectacle of a two trillion dollar war of choice in Iraq, resulting in Islamist takeovers of major cities and expanded Iranian influence, not to mention tens of thousands of violent Iraqi deaths and wounded veterans, invites a new approach to how and why we wage war. What we are doing is not working. I looked at a world map and realized you could circumnavigate the globe with every country along the way visited by the American military or affected by a covert regime change. If this was necessary during a perceived existential threat from the Soviet Union and world communism, during a time of American economic hegemony, why are we spending and projecting military power as much or more once the Cold War was over? I want to find out.Last updated:
The book is a taxpayer/ citizen audit of sorts of the last fifty years of military engagements and covert actions, comparing promised versus actual outcomes. I’m traveling through the scenes of those conflicts to explore how the local narratives differ from the narratives Americans get from our press and our government. In each country in my round the world walkabout, I will seek out stories and characters that illuminate the after effects of war, after the media attention has faded or, if you will, after the party is over. You will be able to participate via social media conversations and interviews and google hangouts and to support the project via crowd funding sites Kickstarter and Patreon.Last updated:
I plan to go to four regions:
Central America; Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama.
Europe; France, Germany, Serbia (Bosnia, Kosovo).
Greater Middle East; Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan
SE Asia; Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia.
I planned to go to more countries, and still may, depending on funding. but my writing group counsels focus and more time for going deeper in each place.
If visa restrictions and outright civil war make entry dangerous or impossible, I will select regional countries that allow me to tell the story as effectively. If there are warning signs, or the need to depart quickly, I will. There is an element of risk to life anywhere, and certainly to travel. I proceed based on the premise that we are far too fearful of travel and of other cultures, that people are more welcoming and open than we might believe, and that street smarts and proper safeguards will make the risk manageable.Last updated:
If I believed that only journalists or academics working for major institutions were qualified to tell stories or explore important questions, i would stay home. I believe there are far smarter and more credentialed writers, and I intend to curate and share their work with my audience. I also believe that the web allows for travel, research and content aggregation opportunities never before available. I have a lot of experience interviewing politically and culturally prominent people, from Senators and Cabinet officials to authors and public intellectuals from my C-SPAN and FORA.tv days. I am told I have a unique ability to draw people out, coming well prepared with a real passion for knowledge and insight. First and foremost, i do this for myself, to probe for answers to important questions about war and peace, and then, i intend to share what I find through social media, the book and multimedia outlets. My bio is on this site and athttp://thevisionproject.com/about/about-brian-gruber.Last updated:
You are supporting an important, serious, and unique exploration of why, how and when we fight, asking whether it is time for a new approach to war.
You are able to participate up close and personal, tracking the author, asking questions via Twitter and Google Hangout, reading daily dispatches from the field, learning at your own pace in an entirely new way.
You will get valuable rewards, including signed books, ebook copies for your friends as a sponsor, invitations to exclusive events and public acknowledgement for your support.
You will be able to see a Kickstarter project unfold first hand, see the book being written in real time and affect the final product and conclusions. You will get an education, a grounding in foreign affairs and military history in a unique and engaging way.
Finally, you will ensure that I have enough resources to stay out of trouble, complete the project and eat. The daily budget for the project is $60, including all travel, lodging, food, incidentals, visas and emergencies. It will be an exercise in creative, low cost travel.Last updated:
Wonderful feedback on last night”s launch of the Kickstarter campaign amidst a flurry of logistics, social media interactions and calls. Inspiring! Brilliant! Courageous! Much needed! Adventurous! Crazy!
A highlight was talking to one of the authors of “Bitter Fruit,” Steven Schlesinger, who provided important insights and leads. The book, co-written with Stephen Kinzer, is IMHO the authoritative study of the overthrow of Jacobo Guzman and subsequent decades of civil war. More on that chat later in the week.
Progress on the Kickstarter campaign can be seen any time by going to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wartheafterparty/war-the-afterparty. Or search on Kickstarter for War The Afterparty. As they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often. Or, pledge and Share, in this case.
I have my first nights lodging in Guatemala City nailed down. I will travel where the leads and instincts take me, so I am not booking in advance, though searching via nbso online casino two go-to lodging sites, airbnb and the more unpredictable couchsurfing.org. While traveling, I often encounter the kindness of strangers so I am expecting to befriend people along the way, and anticipate the occasional lodging or meal invitations. Another phenomenon I am counting on–constant, serendipitous encounters with people with stories to tell. Already, the Guatemala host revealed in passing that this week, he is teaching a class on Jacobo Guzman, and that his grandfather was there for it all and loves talking about it. Another potential host is an L.A. Times reporter in the country on an environmental project. So, official sources and experts, sure, but the witnesses of those who were there.
I have described the project as a kind of taxpayer/ citizen audit of the last fifty years of military engagements and covert actions, comparing promised versus actual outcomes. It has been suggested to me that I can write that book comfortably at home, sitting on my couch, using Skype. My intent on the trip is to explore how local narratives differ from the narratives we get from our press and government, seeking out stories and characters that illuminate the after effects of war, after the media attention has faded or, if you will, after the party is over.
Special thanks to the fabulous LiAnne Mattheney (pictured right), who is organizing two events this week to promote the Kickstarter campaign, tonight in Sacramento and Thursday in San Jose. If you are in the area, please ping me so I can give you an navigation and directions. Free food and wine!