For some five years, three months, and fifteen days, WeaponsMan was one of, if not the, best weapons-related website on the 'net. As anyone who visited there will tell you. The bloghost, Hognose, would probably be shocked and humbled to find that out.
After a 2011 teaser post, he hit the ground running in January 2012: over 100 posts in just his first month at it. And long posts, on all manner of topics varied and sundry. Done with intelligence, wit, and a style those of us fortunately who tumbled onto the site discovered, which kept some thousands coming back.
I wish I'd discovered it sooner: I found him because Tam mentioned him, over a year after he started. My first comment on his board was shortly afterwards. When I commented on this post on the Ides of March, 2013, he was quick to make his comeback into a full post, and referral to my site. I don't know what his daily readership was, but I can tell you that notice got me 2500 views in a day. And that was four years ago. It helped that he was effusively gracious in praising what he found, which certainly didn't hurt my feelings either. I flatter myself that we were something of kindred souls.
We're a few years apart chronologically, and served on active duty in the same timeframe, so we clearly shared some military and cultural reference points. No disrespect to Brendan, but I felt in many ways what a lot of folks in the military do in such circumstances: we were "brothers from another mother". That's the best explanation I can come up with for the loss I feel at his passing.
Looking at the posts in memoriam to him this week, I wasn't the only one. In fact, I wasn't in the only hundred such. Virtually everything I could say about him was echoed in one of the 200+ posts in reply to his brother's news that Hognose, AKA Kevin O'Brien, had passed.
If you're one of the frequent lurkers or commentariat from that site, you already know what I'm talking about. If you aren't, you have, for the moment, a few thousand posts' worth of catching up to do, if you want to know why Hognose deserves the recognition he would never give himself. But I'm pretty sure he knew how we all felt about the place, even if we didn't take the time to pour it all out until notification from his brother of Hognose'/(Kevin's) passing.
I'm going to post now what emotion prevented me from attempting yesterday.
Hognose was, indeed, a gentleman and a scholar. He was a renaissance man, in the truest sense of the term. His site, encapsulated by his blog's statement of purpose, was exactly WYSIWYG:
A lot of nonsense is written about weapons, especially on the Net. Rather than rail at the nonsense, we thought we'd talk sense instead, and see how that catches on.It caught on pretty darned good, Hognose. Thousands of readers can't be wrong.
If it had anything to do with weapons, it was fair game. Cave man weapons, nuclear weapons, knives, clubs, sniper rifles, torpedoes, battleships, anti-rat snakes, "strangling thumbs"; people using weapons, well, badly, stupidly, foolishly, criminals, citizens, cops, troops, and anything that flew, crawled, walked, swam, or slithered, with from two to two dozen legs, and any representation of it in books, films, or any form of media invented or not yet invented, in the known universe, and he blogged it. With wit, with grace, with intelligence, insight, and elan, sufficient to grow his audience day over day, and year over year.
I commented relatively rarely at first, then with more frequency, as many of us did, but in his weekly analysis of his blog, he looked to metrics. When he was puzzled by some posts' lack of response, compared to others that drew them like picnics draw ants, my only answer was absolutely heartfelt and honest:
Sometimes, Hognose, we just stand here open-mouthed and gawping at the lesson you're teaching during the period of instruction, and marvel at the product.I wish I could see the actual stats of how much output he produced, how many words, how many posts, how many comments, and how many views. His regular readership, from 50 states, 16 territories, the District of Columbia, and 60 or 80 countries already know that whatever the final tally was, it was impressive, expansive, and 24K gold, as a rule.
The response of that commentariat now has been as well, because people were drawn to the blog like iron fillings to a magnet, and we could all recognize quality when we saw it. If he had a post, there were frequently five other viewpoints from people who were subject experts from some piece of it. And as a rule, far less of the norm of poseurs or nastiness one is apt to find anywhere else on the internet. I think, because no one wanted to disappoint the bloghost, or force him to intervene; the decorum was disciplined, largely by mutual consent.
So while it lasts (or please, God, until it finds a new host/home, for posterity, because having the blog disappear along with the man would be a criminal waste) go see what you missed. His blog ought to be one of the places where the Internet truly is forever.
And at the root of my tremendous sorrow and sadness at Kevin's passing, is probably the good kind of utter selfishness and regret:
I'm tremendously sorry that a continent separated us, and we never met face to face, and I'm sorry for myself and the rest of us going forward that such a wonderful man, and such a special place, have left us, and we can only be thankful for the memories of what we all had, knowing that the chance for any more of it is largely gone forever.
I'm glad Small Dog Mk II has a new home, despite the loss of his owner. And I'm sorry, as I'm sure his brother is too, that Hognose will never get to fly in the airplane they were building together. Brendan O'Brien, I hope you get to finish that plane someday, for Hognose. I suspect a couple hundred of us, at least, would like to hear about it when you do. If my own sense of loss, being naught but an internet acquaintance, feels like this, I cannot fathom how deep must be your loss, and your father's, at Kevin's passing.
But I'm pretty sure Kevin doesn't need the plane now, because he has his own wings.
And his passing sparks anew in me a fervent hope that there's an afterlife, where families are made whole, and old friends can meet face to face for the first time.
Ladies and gentlemen, I say ye Kevin O'Brien.
With gratitude and respect,
(This post was a whisker late for the Wednesday time hack. Which Hognose, of all people, would certainly understand.)