Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I forgot to pack underwear!

Dashing to the airport (stopped to blog--haha), and just shoved four pair of boxers into the outside thingy on the bag. Whew!

As I was getting into the shower, I pulled down my shorts and something struck me: How many did I bring? Something told me it was too low. I gasped. Yes, zero would be too few. God.

I also forgot my reading glasses, which I realized this morning, as I came to update my blog and reached to put them on.

Hmmmmm. I packed nine pair of sox, in two colors and an assortment of lengths and styles, ten casual shirts to cover fewer casual hours than that expected in the entire trip, and the cool new fitted Hugo Boss dress shirt with the pink cuff links for the West Hollywood event tomorrow. Haha. If ever you were going to wear pink cuff links . . . 

I packed record early last night, finished at 1 a.m. I was so proud of myself. But I was afraid . . .

I guess I'll soon see. LA might be fun without it. Or not.

Wed afternoon update:

In LA. I am ecstatic. This doesn't usually happen. Suddenly I'm drinking in what a privilege this is. More on that later--got to run.

Just got word that my interview is up on "Radio Go Daddy" as the weekly feature and will stay at the top at this link till next Wednesday:

It is with CEO Bob Parsons, who you might recall from the super bowl ads with the GoDaddy girls. He's quite a character, but damn smart, too. And he loved my book, which earns him big points with me. Hahaha. He's normally a big wisecracker, but he really got serious about my book. It really hit him, and I liked the interview a lot.

Amazon jumps the gun on '09 Best list--and includes me

The Best Of . . . lists come earlier every year, and Amazon wanted to very early, apparently, by announcing a series of lists for the first half of the year.

I'm just happy, because I made the "Best Nonfiction of the Year... So Far" list. It had ten books, including COLUMBINE. Their summary:

"10 years after the events that defined an era of school violence, Dave Cullen returns in Columbine to re-examine the details of the tragedy and attempt to unearth the motivations of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Cullen draws mesmerizing portraits of two kids who, through divergent problems, end up at the same point, and reveals how the abundant clues they left in their wake were overlooked."

I'm good with that.


Wed morning update:

Meanwhile, I thought I was tired of traveling, but then I got a rest, and it's exhilarating to get back on the road. Yesterday, I did an event at Front Range Community College in Longmont, Colorado, way out past Boulder.

It was wonderful. They set up a room with 150 chairs and 200 showed up. They scrambled to get more, and many sat on the floor or stood. That's a much better way to start than 50 chairs and 48 of them empty. Hahaha. It was mostly college students, and they were a great audience. They were fascinated by it, they were loaded with questions . . . We could have gone on indefinitely.

And the conventional wisdom says college kids won't buy books for pleasure, they nearly sold out of the 50 copies the school store brought. That was a nice vote of confidence at the end. And it was great getting to know them in the signing line, where I always talk to long. A lot of them want to be writers, but there were a lot of psychology students there, too, and kids still trying to figure it out--which I can sure relate to.

(Why, exactly, do we keep telling ourselves the lie that humans are ready to decide their life course at 18? How many of us were?)

I can't wait to do more. (Tour details here.) I've got another college crowd tonight, at U Cal-Northridge. (I need to get my butt to the airport in 16 minutes.) Then it should be a very different crowd at a great big bookstore in West Hollywood (Book Soup) tomorrow night.

Then I meet a whole bunch of industry and film people and old friends and new friends I've connected with on the web, and then Saturday is a conference of feature editors and Sunday-edition newspaper editors.

All very different audiences. That keeps it interesting. And it's really cool to see so much of the country in rapid succession, even if I only get to dip in.

I am really excited about my homecoming to Elk Grove Village, IL in about a week, and then some big book fests in Austin and Nashville. I think I'm going to hang out in Austin a few days and catch up with old friends. I love that place. And Nashville, how cool. I've never been there as an adult. I'm fascinated by that place. Maybe I'll go to the Opry.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back on book tour: LA, Chi, Longmont, Austin, Nashville, MI, Helsinki

I'm back on book tour for COLUMBINE starting this morning (Tuesday).

I'll be in Longmont, CO at 11:30 a.m., then LA (Northridge and West Hollywood) Wed/Th, and an editor's conference in Portland Saturday. (Thursday night is at Book Soup in WeHo.)

Oct. 3, I have a homecoming event to my hometown of Elk Grove Village outside Chicago, just before my high school reunion.

Later in October I'm doing the Texas Book Festival, the Southern Book Festival and Grand Rapids' library festival, and a school safety conference in Indiana.

All the tour details are here. The book trailer is here:

I'm looking forward to seeing you.

If you come, take pictures and post them on facebook and twitter, and send to me and I'll add to my tour-pictures page.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kathy Griffin's book just debuted at #1 on the NY Times list

Official Book Club Selection is the new #1, knocking out Michelle Malkin's anti-Obama screed, which had ruled for six straight weeks.

Celebrity memoirs rarely go higher than around ten. (There were a slew of them this spring, from very big names, while I was watching the list closely. Most peaked in the teens.) #1 is astounding.

There will be much hand-wringing in the lit world.

Normally, celeb books make me want to retch. But if it's more comedy book than memoir, and it's really funny--or better yet, if can pull off both--then go girl. Kathy Griffin is wickedly funny, so I wouldn't be surprised if she makes it work.

(Update: I've been told by readers on my facebook page that it's more memoir, but in their opinion really good. Huh. I'm more intrigued. I find her genuinely interesting. She's really worked it hard to make something of herself.)

Pretty interesting book trailer here.

There's always a place for good comedy in my world, including books. We don't begrudge David Sedaris. At least I don't. I'll have to check Kathy's book out to see if it measures up.

BTW, what a testament to the power of her Bravo show. D List has been a huge hit--understandably: I've seen every ep, and it's gotten better every year. There is no way the book would have gone near the bestseller list before her show. Now . . .

Kathy is really becoming a force to be reckoned with.


Judy Shepard's The Meaning of Matthew debuts at #30 on the NY Times list, too. Congratulations to an amazing woman. (I covered both murder trials, and spent a lot of time with her. She is brilliant at utterly tranquil.)

The book should go higher, as first-week sales are often only a partial week.

I have not read any of it yet, but plan to. Damn, there are a lot of books to read suddenly. It's that season.


NurtureShock is still going strong at #12, in an ultra-competitive season. I'm reading it right now, and loving it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Can 'The Office' recover?

The Office had grown slightly less funny and less interesting over time, which is nartural, but last season, the plunge accelerated, and it fell off a clip once they started the Michael Scott Paper Company storyline all spring.

In one year, The Office went from the funniest show on TV to intolerable. (Meanwhile, 30 Rock got so damn good it would have passed The Office anyway, but still, what a drop.)

So they have had a summer off to think about it. Can they figure it out? Tonight, we find out--or at least the first big indication. They have one hell of a talented writing pool and cast. I'm pulling for them.

Great shows have gone astray and then corrected before. Survivor, for instance--a completely different kind of show, but so what--really seemed to have jumped the shark with it's dreadful All Stars show way back, and it had just gotten too predictable. (And yes, I think Survivor was/is a brilliant show. Most reality TV is garbage, but so is most TV in general. Writing it all off together is just silly.) Anyway, Survivor really figured out a new formula--or just enough of a change each season to keep it interesting. I don't rush home to see it like the early days, but I still enjoy it.

I hope The Office is one of those turnarounds.

I'll weigh in soon on how they did. And maybe I'll talk about Survivor, too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The end of my Leno torture

I could never be a TV critic. There's a lot of great stuff on TV, but it's wildly outnumbered by total crap.

I made it through about an hour and a half of that crap this week, then I had to call my Leno experiment to an end. (Humanitarian reasons--for myself.) I really  wanted to see if Jay could find a way to be funny--or bring in funny people in the taped segments. I did actually laugh a few times--mostly when Jerry Seinfeld was speaking--but the wince-to-laugh ratio was extraordinary.

It was also surprisingly unoriginal. I thought the idea was to "re-invent" . . . something. It was the same lame Jay, doing the same dull stuff, and pre-taped "comedy" skit segments were even worse than Jay's jokes.

I'm in the camp that NBC is going to dig itself into a much deeper hole with this idiotic idea. It will be awhile before we know. The curiosity factor drew nearly 18 million viewers the first night. About 1/3 of them deserted Tuesday. That number will continue downward, especially when the other networks start airing new shows in a few days. How far, is the big question. Way lower than NBC can or will bear, I'll wager.

Time Magazine had a really intelligent analysis of the whole situation in its cover story by James Poniewozik last week, despite the idiotic headline: "Jay Leno is the future of TV. Seriously." Poniewozik is way smarter than that, and said nothing of the sort. His best line:

"NBC is trying to adapt to a media future in which audiences choose from a thousand flavors by signing up with America's most successful purveyor of vanilla."

Here's the bottom line: a whole week of the show is cheaper for NBC to produce than one hour of the dramas normally in that place. So the show can turn a profit with much less income.
That's what they say, but everyone who knows the TV business understands it's a lot more complicated than that. Individual shows do not operate in a vacuum, especially when they are on five days a week. Poniewozik again:

"Business models aside, somebody still actually has to watch Leno. NBC has set the bar low enough for a sleeping man to clear. If Leno can just get the ratings he did in late night, some 5 million viewers (paltry by 10 p.m. standards), his show will be more profitable than what it replaced in that time slot, reps say. But having a lower-rated lead-in for the 11 p.m. newscasts would infuriate affiliates. . . . And a weaker lead-in would be a further blow to O'Brien, whose Tonight Show has struggled . . . "

And he's just scratching the surface. When a network's primetime lineup falters--particularly the close-out show--it pulls down ratings for Today, the soaps, the nightly news, and the next night's shows. (The further away, the less the impact.)

Poniewozik also points out something I hadn't thought of: "If a failed Leno Show could undermine Tonight, so could a successful one." How many viewers are going to want a second hour of gabfest a night? (Conan and Letterman are both followed by second hours of talk, but the ratings fall drastically for the second shows.)

The biggest mess will come in a few weeks or months, when NBC likely pulls the plug, and nearly 1/3 of its primetime schedule is empty. ABC had a hell of a time rebuilding after its Millionaire suddenly tanked, but at least it got a year of boffo ratings out of it first.

NBC says this is the future for all the networks. I doubt it. They are in a bind, and they do have to try new things--maybe even a show with this kind of format. But they will have to make it a funny one. That's the thing about television and every other art form: You can write new rules any time you want, but if you want the audience to go with you, you better give them something good.

Change is definitely coming to network TV, but this crap is not it.
Thurs update:

Ratings were up a bit Wed (to 13.1 million), due to a huge lead-in from the finale of America's Got Talent. That was a one-time thing.

Also, Jon and Stephen are back! Those guys have talent. And Stephen was totally on fire.

I also thing Craig Ferguson does a really funny chat show. Why didn't they hire him?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Finished work for Sunday. Ugh.

So Talking Points Memo invite me to do their Book Cafe online discussion on COLUMBINE all week. It starts in the morning, and I wanted to start it off with a strong intro post. So I put ideas together last week, and had the gist of it by Friday, but lots of bullet points and partial thoughts, and had to pull it all together Saturday.

Then I spent most of Saturday creating this new blog. Doh! (It might not show in the posts, but I designed the template, and one huge technical problem due to me creating a blog on blogger years ago with an email account I no longer have.)

Saturday evening, I realized that meant I'd have to do it on Sunday, the one day I give myself off. Yuck.

So I put it off all day, because I just did not want to work. I finally ate dinner, watched True Blood--the lame finale to a lame second season of the best show of 2008--and then went at it.

I'm done now. What a relief. And I'm happy with what I came up with, but why do I torture myself?

I love my work, but I do not love doing it on Sundays. Not the thinking part, anyway. I actually spend half of most Sundays working, but mostly the mindless stuff where I only have to concentrate a little: on one discrete thing at a time. When I have to engage my whole brain, and be creative. That hurts. Sundays are supposed to be free.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

As heard by his wild young heart

This blog feels a little naked, so I thought I'd start it off reposting a few of my favorites from the year. These two on The Gaslight Anthem feel like a great place to start:
Just when I need it
Jan 31, 2009

Last night was rough. I've been sailing along, ecstatic about the progress of my book, but a few events this week forced me to confront something that's been looming: the brutality in my book. There's some pretty searing stuff in there.
So the past few days, I've been thinking about the parents reading it: parents of the victims and the killers. I wrote someone an email about it last night, after midnight, before I went to bed, and I thought that would help a little, but it tore me up and I was here on the couch all alone and needed a hug or something. Or just to say it out loud, because sometimes I can't get to the sadness and let it out unless I say it to someone first. It wells up, but I can't get it to the surface.
I couldn't figure out who was up--most of my best friends are on the east coast, or central, so I texted a few people to see if they were without waking them (what a great invention that is), but nobody was, so I went to sleep.
I woke up numb, which is worse. I know it's still in there, but couldn't feel sad, or anything. That just means it's lying in wait.

Moving to Blogger

I started my blog, Conclusive Evidence of Dave Cullen's Existence in 2002 (I think), when Salon first started its blogs program. It's been a great run, but the software platform they chose failed to live up to its promise, and I'm finally moving on.

All the archives from most of that time are there, with the main exception of 2008, where I blogged primarily here at OpenSalon.

It looks like I'm going to settle here at blogger. I'm testing it out now, starting with this post.

The new address: