Saturday, February 27, 2010

Live earthquake reports from my niece in Chile

chile-earthquake-map My niece is a Notre Dame college student on an exchange program in Chile. She arrived there three weeks ago. I just got this message from my sister, who said it was OK to use, without the names. So I am going to use initials, calling my niece C.
Updates to follow.

Her msgs (all times Denver):


We just had a long talk on the phone with C.  She is doing great.  All the students from ND and Marquette are accounted for and ok. In fact C just got a text from the last missing guy a few minutes ago and we passed it on.

She was actually up at the time of the quake (3:35am her time). She said first the internet went out, then the power went out, then the shaking started.  She sat by her window (which was open because it's summer there) and watched things shake.  She said it was scary. They have been feeling after shocks, but she sounded great.  She is in an apartment building in Santiago with her host mom, N, who said she has felt earthquakes, but nothing like this one.  They are on the 9th floor, but have very little damage, just a bit of broken glass and plaster.  Their power was only out for 2 hours.  Apparently Santiago has had very strict zoning since the 1920's, so the old part of town is the hardest hit.

C just got to Santiago on thursday.  For 3 weeks they had been in a rural area that was quite a bit closer to the epicenter.  She is worried about the family she was staying with there.  We thank God that she is ok and are praying for all the people in Chile who are not.

10:21 a.m. (After I asked how C is holding up):

she is very calm and upbeat now.

10:50 a.m.

Just got an e-mail from CE, who is in charge of the students in Chile.  She describes the area of Linares that the group just came from:
"I just heard from some friends that most of the buildings downtown Linares are on the floor. Several tidal waves have affected the zone too. Places that we visited recently. Chile is also cut in two, because several bridges collapsed and the Panamerican Highway is not passable."

Very scary.


FYI, this from Wall Street Journal story:

The 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck off coastal Chile in the early hours of the morning is one of the biggest temblors anywhere in more than a century.

Data from the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that this morning's Chile quake tied in fifth place with an 8.8 quake that hit Ecaduor and Bolivia in 1906. Only four quakes have been bigger since 1900. The largest was a 9.5 magnitude event that struck Chile in 1960, causing 1,655 fatalities, leaving 2 million homeless, and triggering a tsunami that killed people in Hawaii, Japan and the Philippines.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dealing with the latest Littleton shooting

deer-creek-shooting_littleton_columbineI was shaken up when I watched the footage of kids fleeing Deer Creek Middle School near Columbine Tuesday, after an adult opened fire. God. It was just like watching the kids at Columbine again. Obviously, I'm not the only one to feel that way, and there are people with much bigger problems than me. So I want to share two really good pieces just published about the awful shooting this week.

1. Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis has some great advice for teachers who face a crisis like this, in a story for a Denver TV affiliate:

"Teachers are anxious. They're not sure what to expect. Even though they're emotions right now may be all right, all of a sudden they see their students for the first time, it can cause some strong emotions," Frank DeAngelis said. . . .

DeAngelis said one lesson he carries with him is to remember to account for the person you see in the mirror."If you can't help yourself, you can't help others," DeAngelis said, noting he got an e-mail Thursday from a teacher who'd been at Columbine in 1999 and was feeling anxiety over the Deer Creek shooting. "She said, 'God, I thought I was the only one until you talked to me and said you were feeling the same thing.' And so I think that's so important."

DeAngelis said he could tell the emotions getting to him this week, as he reached out to help fellow Jefferson County Schools staffers, but also had to re-live his own flash points.

"There's times I hear a balloon pop...and this is 11 years out...there's times I hear a balloon pop, I'll dive on the ground because of the experience that I had that day when I walked out of my office and the gunman was firing," DeAngelis said. "Unfortunately I can't take away the hurt that you're feeling right now. But the one thing that I can guarantee you is that you're not in this alone and I will walk every step of this journey with you."


2. Emily Friedman did a wonderfully empathetic piece for, about retraumatization, and coping with PTSD.I know she's a smart reporter, because she interviewed me for the piece. (My quotes appear on the third web page.)

Here are some telling quotes from Kent Friesen, a teacher who spent hours barricaded inside Columbine the day of the attack:

"Everyone has different triggers," Friesen, 59, said . . ."The footage of the kids running from the school, that didn't hurt me as much as the helicopters," he said. "And cops, those are just my triggers."

Psychotherapy and the support of his wife, he said, have helped him battle his post-traumatic stress disorder, and he credits them both with saving his life. Friesen said he knows others don't deal with flashbacks as well as he does.

"I just know that I won't sleep well for the next couple of days," he said. "I'll have flashbacks of what I saw, and those kids. You think about the kids who suffered."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"The Last Columbine Mystery"—Eric's parents speak

This is news I have wanted to report for awhile now. I wanted to get it right, though, and then had to wait for the paperback publication of my book.

It's adapted from one part of the Afterword in expanded paperback edition (which will be in most bookstores by Monday).

The Afterword is mainly about "Forgiveness"—in quotes, because some of the people involved dislike the term: and how you label it is essential to how you deal with it.

Two families actually met both the Harrises and the Klebolds. I tell Linda Mauser's story in the Daily Beast piece, but Bob Curnow also met with both and had a completely different reaction.
Today: February 25, 2010 Dave Cullen The Last Columbine Mystery
by Dave Cullen

 As another school shooting rocks the Columbine area, Dave Cullen reveals the secret meeting Eric Harris’ parents had with his victims’ kin—offering a rare glimpse into how they viewed their son.

It’s been nearly eleven years since the Columbine tragedy rocked the nation, and the largest remaining questions center on the killers’ parents: Did they see it coming? Why do they think it happened? How did the tragedy affect them? Do they feel remorse? Have they expressed it to the victims?

Read Full Article »

Also see: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site, Columbine Shooting video.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Rare Breed of Killer

Something unusual happened in Alabama Friday afternoon. A woman committed mass murder.

That's the opening of a piece I wrote late last night for The Daily Beast. It's their lead story right now.

I am really tired now, because I spent a good chunk of the night writing it. I heard about it at the 24 Hour Fitness around 7:30 p.m., when Kari Rene Hall, a photojournalist with the Orange County Register called my iPhone in the middle of my seated reverse-grip military presses on the smith machine. (I use the phone as an iPod while I work out.)

Kari is a colleague from The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, so I figured her team would write em pathetically, and I was eager to help.

She wanted to know if a woman had ever perpetrated a school shooting before. Yes, I said, but rarely.
I called my wonderful volunteer researcher in Kentucky to find the long list we'd compiled and email it to  my phone. The reporter said the woman had killed only faculty, which immediately made me guess it might actually be more of a workplace shooting. Maybe, maybe not. Was she a grad student, I asked. The reporter didn't know. She turned out to be a professor herself.

I was intrigued. Lots of interesting aspects to this case. Lots of ways to address all the myths most of us have about the "profile" of the typical shooter. (Which is nearly all complete nonsense: except that they are nearly always male, which is nearly always true, but not this time.)

I kept lifting, and thinking. Between sets, I'd scramble over to the front desk, reach over the counter to where I know they store the stack of pink message pads which have blank backsides, grabbed one of those and a pen and scribbled down thoughts.

They tend to look surprised when I rush up and do that, but they are also kind of used to me. They start to say, "Can I help y. . ." and then they appear to think, Oh, their wierd guy who frantically needs to scribble things again.

I do my bestcomposing on walks, bike rides and lat pulldown machines.

My gym pants had no pockets, so I fold them twice the long way and then tuck them into my waistband, half inside, half out, with my shirt hanging down to cover them, except when I stretch. Then it might look odd, I'm not sure.

I got home with a stack, and a lot of data to go digging for. It was after 10 on the east coast, so I emailed a couple editors I've worked for. One was still up and wanted it.

A bit past midnight I had the piece, sent it off tried to go to sleep and thought about all the stuff I left out. I sent an update, got five hours of sleep, and by the time I got up for my nightly pee-break, there was an edit waiting for me, with questions.

It took and hour and a half to satisfy myself with the rewrites, and then my body didn't want to go back to sleep.

So the story is up, and I'm happy with it, but I would really appreciate it if my body would turn itself off for awhile. Not going to happen. My brain does not believe in naps. It's hard enough to make it shut up at night.
I hope you like the piece.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Survivor gone wrong

I love Survivor from the start. But after seven seasons, just as it was wearing thin, producer Mark Burnett made his first huge blunder: Survivor All Stars

Awful. It was quickly apparent how surprisingly uninteresting the contestants were. They appear so interesting on the show, because the situation is so interesting. It forces them into really tight situations, and reveals a great deal about them, about us. The situation is manufactured, the responses are not.

Plus, the producers cast well. They gather an eclectic mix of people, most of whom are expressive and many of whom have something worthy to express. It's fascinating to watch them evolve for awhile. For about 13 weeks.

Damn. Mark Burnett has great instincts most of the time, and one of his best was gauging that right from the start. Thirteen weeks is right about the limit that he can keep these people interesting, no matter what he inflicts them with.

They are more or less ordinary people--loud in personality, but not particularly deep. None of them were rocket scientists (for real) or artists or thinkers. There was a reason none of them were famous. They were great to watch for a season, and then . . . I hope their friends enjoy them.

All Stars didn't lose steam halfway through the seaons, it opened dull and flatlined all the way to the end. It was shocking how bland that first episode was. Within twenty minutes it was obvious there was not one damn thing we were going to learn about these people.

CBS had tried Survivor reruns and Survivor DVDs and they had failed miserably. This was worse.
It survived in the ratings that year, but lost a lot of momentum. If ever there were a shark-jump, this felt like it.
To my great surprise and delight, though, the producers must have done some brainstorming, because they started adding new elements which finally broke the alliance system--or shot it up enough that it was no longer predictable--and made it interesting again.

In bone-headed move #2, they repeated half the blunder in season 16 with the dismal Fans vs. Favorites. At least half the contenstants were new. Not nearly enough.

And tonight, just after just three regular casts, we get what promises to be The Worst Survivor Ever. Rerun season #3. Many of them are actually returning for the third time. What?

Add to that the supposed Heros/Villians theme. Apparently Villain = annoying dick, and Hero = a) hottie with a heart or b) annoying smug asshole. (With exceptions. Cirie, for example, was an authentically likable person, who wasn't trying to be.) Survivor-Cirie

I know a lot of people watch the series for the villains, and they do add drama, but the age faster than bad sushi. Their value lies merely in the effect they have on others, and I can't wait to see them voted off fast enough--so I don't have to see them again.  Second sight of them is a particular mistake.

Boston Rob, one of the dullest, one-note villains the first time has bored us through two seasons of Survivor one of The Amazing Race, and a two-hour CBS "special" on his marraige to the lethargic Amber.

Even the so-called favorites are typically over-rated and way over-exposed the first time. Rupert, for instance. Blech. I didn't buy your pirate shtick the first time, buddy.

Then there are a few hapless fools the producers just didn't  seem to know what to do with.  Tyson was hardly a villain, but what were they going to do, created a Dorks team?

He seemed like an incredibly repressed guy without identifiable personality trying desperately to prove how wild and crazy he was by pulling his pants down. Ok dude, we get it. You wish you were the life of the party. Now you're a naked boring guy. And really annoying, and full of yourself.

The only intesting part about Tyson was to watch how jealous Brendan made him--Brendan actually having the charm and wit he desired. It was like watching Gollum covet his precious. It was a perfect contrast, because the same season, Coach was equally envious, but blatantly open about it, while Tyson laughably try to hide his.

So. Why is Mar Burnett they trying to kill his show?

How bad can it get? Worse than I can picture right now, I'm betting.

I might have to watch this season just to make fun of it, though it's a lot more interesting when the show is actually interesting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's cold in here--48 degrees in my living room

I have to whisper, because there are Asian men in my apartment. I have closed myself off into the bedroom and don't want them to hear me. It's still warm in here, but they are coming in soon.

This is my living room and balcony:

I'm not going nuts this time, just getting new windows. It's no fun. I had insomnia last night, and they woke me at 8:30. No getting back to sleep, because they would be pounding incessantly all day.

My landlord is putting energy-efficient windows on the top floor, which is where I live, and work. It might make more sense to fix my heater which runs nonstop in my bedroom so that I have to keep the window open all day and most of the night to make it bearable. (It wakes me up at dawn when it is cold and bright. Then I shut the window and shades to try to get just enough sleep before it gradually rises to inferno.)

Seriously, I think closing one window would save more heat than replacing them all. But I'm not in charge.

Hennyway, they woke me today and have mostly been down the hall. Now they are in my place, and they have invaded my bedroom too--(that's them to the left)--so I've retreated to the writing studio, where it is a toasty 64 degrees. I checked the thermostat in my living room. 48. That's not so bad for outside but no fun on your couch.

Tonight I get to look forward to the fumes. They use a lot of caulk, and it was unbearable in the studio for two days over the weekend without the window open. Luckily it was warm. Cold front hit this weekend, and I think it's below freezing at noon. Hmmmm.

At least the bedroom window will be open, once I warm it up.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Appalling Project Runway episode

i'm halfway thru the ep, and obsessed with the idea of jesus getting booted. that's partly because i WANT to see his sorry ass out of there, and because i expect him to go soon.

he screams poser to me every time his lips move. he is also enraptured with every move he makes--he has to ability to step back and assess his work. was it adonis who fell in love with his own reflection? same with jesus--he sees his designs as his reflection. sadly, they are. hahaha.

his ears were somehow also sealed at birth: i can't wait to see how he doesn't perform this challenge.

and what a yucky challenge it's shaping up to be. all red sounds really boring, but that particular shade of red, which only a processed foodlike soup would be caught dead wearing. real soup would be embarrassed to put that color on--it has no business on a human being.

and that wasn't enough: they wanted their name on it? i realize campbell paid dearly for this product placement, but legible clothing for a gala? those people have no taste.

perhaps the designers will surprise me. 
Yikes. No pleasant surprises. Worst challenge ever?

I did not see a single dress I liked. I guess I wouldn't quarrel with the winner, for least bad. I liked a lot of what was going on with Maya's curves, though it was hard to look past the Miss America sash.

They needed  a bottom eight for all the atrocities. How did Anthony escape the bottom? It looked ridiculous and made his model look gigantic. He thought it hid her weight? Hid it where--inside my corneas?

I was again shocked by the judge-love for Mila. By itself, the smaller star was iffy, borderline self-conscious and cheeseball. I shuddered a little, but could bear it. Two were inexcusable, especially at that size. A really bad Harlem Globetrotters outfit.

Anna's was also scary. Every time I saw it, I thought the model was semi-naked. Such an odd, unintentional and discomforting optical effect. Ow.

Funny that Jesus was booted for his least appalling to-date. 

I believe he and Ping were cast as the comic relief this season, so at least were done with that phase of the show.

On to better challenges. I still think we have a talented group here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

B&N; announces Discover Award finalists--including COLUMBINE


I dropped into a Barnes & Noble yesterday to sign stock, and picked up their new Discover Great New Writers pamphlet, which just came out yesterday. I gaped when I saw the centerfold. (Third pic from the right made me happy.)

My editor had emailed the news that I was a finalist a few hours earlier, but I didn't realize they would print these, and it hit me very differently when I saw it in print.

Jill Lamar, who directs the program, also included very nice comments in her letter to readers on the cover: "The six finalists include . . . a journalist who spent years investigating the high-school massacre in Littleton, Colorado, to craft his book . . ."

Winners will be announced March 3 at a NY ceremony.

Starting yesterday, Columbine should be back in the Discover Great New Writers section of every B&N store for the next two months, and I think that means it will be 20% off in all their stores for the duration. If it wins, it stays there for a full year.

Thank you Jill and everyone at B&N. You guys have been very good to my little book.

I think I forgot to mention that Columbine has also been nominated for an Edgar Award. That ceremony is April 29, also in NYC.

The book has made two dozen Best of 2009 lists now, including Top Fives from Salon and the LA Times, and #1 from iTunes and the American School Board Journal, which named it Top Education Book of 2009. It won the GoodReads Choice Award for best nonfiction book of

Details here.