Songs about war are timeless and a part of American culture. In this talk, James Nash reflects on how he came to write "Russell County Gorge" about US Marine Corps 1st Lt. Ryan McGlothlin, killed in Iraq in 2005. Over the course of two years traveling and performing the song, James found Ryan's story led to emotional and often unexpected connections with listeners, including other Marines. James is a singer songwriter and lead guitarist for The Waybacks and The Nashvillains, and he frequently joins Bob Weir, Michelle Shocked and other musicians for live shows. James performs "Russell County Gorge" with the TEDxAlcatraz house band: Alisa Rose on violin, and Peter Gregson playing cello. We thank Ryan McGlothlin's family for photographs and for their support with this project. US forces photographs (Iraq & Afganistan) were taken by embedded combat photojournalists Teru Kuwayama and Balasz Gardi. Russell County landscapes photographed by Polly King. We chose the TEDx name Alcatraz because of the sense of mystery that Alcatraz invokes. It is a mythic place of opposites, dualities, and polarities: it has held dangerous criminals, and also been a site for cultural revolution when indigenous peoples assembled and occupied the island in the late 60's. Did an inmate ever escape from Alcatraz? And what becomes of it now as it has transitioned from a prison into a national park? And how has this transition changed the symbology of Alcatraz as an icon in the American consciousness? Our plan is to again be on land in 2011 as we plan for a 2012 TEDx event on Alcatraz Island itself. We kicked off at Temple Nightclub in downtown San Francisco on December 1, 2010. The evening began at 8PM after a three course dinner, and went until nearly 1AM, as an evening some described as an intellectual rave, or as "TEDx after-hours". TEDxAlcatraz Curator Gregory Miller and Co-curator David Gurman introduced the evening's theme, "A Suspension of Disbelief" to an invited audience of 180 optimistic & big thinkers of the nocturnal kind. That night, Alcatraz was part of the theme, and we sought a set design and look & feel of being out on the Island. Our nine TEDxAlcatraz spoken talks were peppered with live music reminiscent of the days Johnny Cash performed in old San Quentin. Music in the night from The Waybacks' James Nash, The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, TED Fellow Iyeoka, Scottish cellist Peter Gregson, fiddle extraordinaire Alisa Rose, and London's DJ Mikey Four. Over the evening they performed Bittersweet Symphony, Masters of War, Birdsong, All Along the Watchtower and Russell County Gorge. Our speakers and performers arrived the day before, coming from London, Scotland, Brazil, Boston, New York, Washington DC and Los Angeles, and included five TED Fellows. About TEDx, x = independently organized event In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.) Video produced and directed by Gregory Miller & James Nash. TEDxAlcatraz opening trailer by Android Jones, James Nash, Alisa Rose, Peter Gregson & Gregory Miller.
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