Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time for new Project Runway judges—Mondo won the real prize

Time for Project Runway to consider new judges.

I am a bit late to the party on that one, because I felt no sense of urgency in watching the inevitable of their finale this year. I was eager to get the full view of Mondo's collection, and watch him beam when they crowned him, but not much anxiety over a conclusion we could all see at least two months ago.

So I left the final half hour of the finale on the tivo until I had time to really savor it, over breakfast this morning.


In eight seasons, Project Runway has had three or four real finds: Designers with extraordinary talent and a new, different vision, who actually have the potential to be a star in their field.

They were blessed with one of those few this season—arguably the best they have ever had. And they handed their title to a workable designer making bland, well-crafted clothes?

It got a little embarrassing to watch him compete all season against a weak field working in a different class.

The only thing more shocking than the final decision was the argument out of Nina Garcia and Micheal Kors leading up to it. Nina seemed to be saying that Gretchen did the best job mimicking all the other designers in the world, and fitting into wallpaper unobtrusively.

I can accept that Gretchen did that most successfully. What I can't understand is why Nina wants to reward it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ten Interview Tips: Mechanics

Second in a series for writers and journalists.

Ten Interview Tips: Mechanics
  1. Document every call. Even 2-minute follow-ups. Log time, date, name, #, in advance.

  2. Write constantly, but paraphrase most: bullet points, key phrases, important ideas. Only get full quote when it’s quotable. (Develop get an ear for it. Notice which quotes make it into the story.) Use a clear convention to distinguish when it’s a true quote.

  3. Getting killer quotes down on paper:
    • Abbreviate. Develop your own conventions (eg, I use ~ for “about,” “vic” for “victim,” initials for name the source uses a lot.
    • It’s OK to ask them to slow down/ repeat. But is it wise? Sometimes. Great quotes come in spurts. Are they on a roll? Never stop a great roll.
    • If you’re halfway through a great quote and they start in a better one, drop the first one, and scribble the second. (Two halves are better than a whole anyway: you have the memory joggers down to go back and ask them.)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Evolution of a website; 4th design in 10 years—What do you think?

I first bought my name back in 1999, I believe. It was back then because some early Dave adopter grabbed the version of our name I wanted before it occurred to me.

Today: Oct 2010
Today, I submit my fourth all-new look from the course of that decade. I created it myself, again. What do you think?

It's at, where I've been most of that time, because the other Dave never got around to using it, and I nabbed it quickly when it expired.

I don't think the automated "back-ordering" method had been invented yet. I just checked WhoIs for the expiration date, and kept trying. One day, it worked. I hope to squat there for life.

It took me months to get something up there the first time. How to build a website was puzzling, but the uploading was worse.

Initially, I just grabbed the name because someone else would. I had one shot for life. (Possibly well beyond my life, actually, if my books stay in print, and my "heirs" look after my online home. Someone will slip up. I wonder how long it will last?)

For a few years, I held onto too, just in case. That seemed excessive, but who knew what lay ahead? I was hedging all bets.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Half our kids admit to bullying—the worse part

A huge study came out yesterday, with dismal findings on bullying.

The report statement begins:
 According to a new study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics (the largest ever undertaken of the attitudes and conduct of high school students), half of all high school students (50 percent) admit they bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half (47 percent) say they were bullied, teased, or taunted in a way that seriously upset them in the past year. The study reports the responses from 43,321 high school students. The margin of error is less than 1%.

You can read the actual results in a PDF. (It's a simple format.)

Unfortunately, the numbers are not a shock to people who have been studying the problem. It's been a huge problem, and it's remaining a huge problem.

The more troubling part is that we can't seem to figure out what to do about it. (The numbers show a slight improvement from 2008, but we have not gotten very far.)

Despite the dearth of evidence that Columbine was related to bullying, most of the public thought it was. That led to huge campaigns to combat the problem.

I always so that as sort of the wonderful upside to a huge mistake. We shouldn't address bullying because we thought it provoked two killers, we should address it because it's terrible.

Regardless, we addressed it.

Eleven years later, ouch.

I'm frustrated. I'm not an expert on bullying. I have not studied anti-bullying campaigns, to ascertain which ones really work. Clearly, many are failing.

So who has? What's actually working out there?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Advice for young journalists--Part 1: The Essence of Interviewing

First in a series on advice about writing, publishing, etc., for writers and journalists.

I get asked about writing and reporting every week, and I've been promising to get some ideas down for students and aspiring writer/journos. As I create them, I'll stash them all on the new Advice for Writers page on my main site.

Steve Brill asked me to come up to talk to his journ class at Yale last week, which finally made it begin to happen. He wanted me to focus on interviewing, so I put three lists of advice together, looking at it from different angles.

Yale was incredible, BTW. I still have to put together my post on that.

Below is the first set of advice. I'll post the other two lists later in the week. Then on to other writing topics down the road.  And you might also check out my video series on the writing process for Columbine. There are two there on structure, and two on character.

Ten Interview Tips: What Makes Them Tell?
  1. Always write out the questions in advance. (Yes, on paper/PC/iPhone.)
    • Even if you only have 30 seconds to prepare.

  2. Rarely look at those questions once you start.

  3. If you followed the questions more or less in order, you failed.
    • It means every time they spilled something more interesting, you brushed it off and stuck to your agenda.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Keith Richards is still doing it

I just read this Keith Richards quote from his new autobiography.

"People say 'why don't you give it up?' I don't think they quite understand. I'm not doing it just for the money, or for you. I'm doing it for me." —Keith Richards

OK, I needed to hear that. Because I have said that about the Rolling Stones--starting about 30 years ago. I said it long enough to get tired of it and wonder why anyone bothered.

I still don't get why people go to their shows, but I do get why he's doing them. What else is he going to do?


On another note, I'm curious whether the book is any good. Anyone read it?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Never pick up a burning-hot burner

I wonder whether the Yale students I spoke to Monday noticed the blister protruding a quarter inch out of my thumb. It's hard to illustrate the depth into this pic (I didn't really get the angle right), but it was fully inflated when I arrived in New Haven Sunday night.

I moved to Manhattan July 12. So the good news is, I went just over three months without injuring myself switching to a gas stove.

The incident occurred early last weekend. I was rushing about on a quick breakfast break, and cleaning up the kitchen as I ate at the counter. I scrubbed a few things in the sink, poured a cup of reheated coffee with my right hand while I rinsed the last dish with my left, wiped quickly around the burners on the stove--it takes too long to pull them out and reseat them every time to clean the interior--and was about to squeeze the sponge dry and stow it when . . .

That little splotch beneath the burner irritated me. I decided not to let it go this time. I forgot I'd been multi-tasking there a few seconds earlier, bringing the day-old coffee back to a boil. I believe I have detected a design flaw in the iron black grates: they look wonderful, but they do not glow. They do not betray any indication of use.

Good thing I live alone. If I were married, I might have lost a husband to the flying burner. I had it several inches off the stovetop before the synapses in my brain erupted and instructed my thumb and forefinger to fling it across the room.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm on Spike TV Saturday on Columbine

This Saturday morning, Spike TV is rerunning the “Don’t Be a Victim” show on Columbine that featured me.

They use me as the sort of guide through the story for the first half of the 30-minute segment. It first ran a few months ago, but I didn't say much in advance, because I was not sure what to expect.

(I'm also not sure why my head is sideways. They filmed me on a green screen, BTW. I wasn't actually inside the high school this time, though I appear there the whole show.)

The show runs Saturday mornings, 9am-11am Eastern (check local listings for times in your area). I think my "What If?" segment runs first, though they might have changed that.

Here's the show's description of the episode:
The shootings at Columbine High School changed how law enforcement deals with an active shooter situation; do you know how to protect yourself if such an event occurs? We’ll hear from Columbine Principle, Frank DeAngelis and famed author Dave Cullen on what went wrong, and what law enforcement and citizens learned from the tragedy on What If?<

Video preview of this week’s block.

FYI, my Columbine Online site and Columbine Instructor Guide (Teacher's Guide) are both previewable in beta. And my Why Columbine? intro video is doing well, but could use links.

A great newish MFA writing program--and their new lit mag is out

The fall issue of The Coachella Review is out.

It features
The review is put out by the Creative Writing MFA program at The University of California, Riverside—Palm Desert. (Damn, that's a mouthful.)

If you're thinking about an MFA--low residency or traditional--give them serious consideration. They are a new program that might not be on your radar, but they are very hot.

I did a guest resident author stint for three days this summer, and was wowed by them: the faculty, the students, and the program. (No, that's not me in the picture. Haha.)

They put a high priority on bringing in outside authors, an incredible list for just the last two years. (Jane Smiley was there the same week as me.)

Tod Goldberg runs the program, and he's extremely bright, energetic and well-connected, to get the talent there. It's not a program resting on its laurels.

They also have incredible West Coast faculty, including David Ulin. It helps to be close to a big city like LA.

(FYI, my new Columbine Online is in beta now, as is my Columbine Instructor Guide (Teacher's Guide) .)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Yikes. I never let the fridge get this bare. Usually I've got shit piled all on top of itself.

The cupboard is stripped, too. All the soups, the bread, fruit . . . I've got coffee.

I've got a voracious appetite/metabolism, and I crash hard when I don't eat. But I've been in a manic state the last few weeks redoing my Columbine Instructor Guide and website and Columbine Online. (Getting close.)

And just back from an amazing day at Yale late last night. (More on that soon.)

But I need food.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I might be in NJ--Train-ride up to Yale

I barely made it, of course. Haha. My subway hit Penn Station ten minutes before departure time, and I wasn't sure where Amtrack was in that place, but seemed like enough time.

My credit card has been over-swiped, though, and the kiosk kept rejecting it. The human ticket line was way too long--I'd never make it. It finally worked, but then hung up. Arrrrrgh.

Got to the train with over a minute to spare, though. Haha. I'm in a broken seat, though.

So . . . Is this New Jersey, or Connecticut?

Haha. Maybe the Bronx.

I'm not actually sure where New Haven is from here. (From Manhattan. Mentally, I'm apparently still there.)

Not important. I'm gleeful, that is.

I was surprised the train was packed solid on a weekend.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Off to Yale--with interview advice for young journalists

Steven Brill is teaching my book Columbine to his Yale journalism class this semester, and asked me to come speak to them, so of course I said yes. I have admired him for ages, and I've never been to Yale. (Definitely not invited.)

We set a date for October, and it's here Monday. I'm actually headed up on the train Sunday night. I'm also doing a Master's Tea on Monday, and a lunch with one group of students, and a dinner with another.

(Yale is apparently broken out into twelve "college" like Hogwarts (or vice versa), and Pierson College will be hosting my tea. I like that. Feeling very Harry Potter-ish. Haha.)

So much to get done, though. I usually just wing these things, as I've done them a million times, but . . . Steve is really interested in interviews, and wants me convey some key ideas. I got excited talking to him about it this summer. It's really a core skill, doing it well, that a lot of journalists never really master.

(If it felt like a great interview, it wasn't. It should feel like a conversation.)

So I've been mulling, and this morning I dug through my old interview files and I have a million ideas.

I've created to cheat sheets--one on mechanics, one on getting people to talk. I'll share them here once I finalize them. Probably next week.

I'm excited already, though. Talking to students always invigorates me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kindles without page numbers?

I discovered this wonderful discussion site Kindleboards a few weeks ago. (This link takes you to the thread on my book, but of course there is loads more there.)

The downside, is it is feeding my growing appetite to actually get one of the little buggers for myself. If Amazon drops the price to the magic $99 level, I think I'll take the plunge--or put one on my Christmas list.

The site has also taught me a lot about what has drawn so many people to the Kindle, and how they experience books on them. That's great insight for an author. But a few mini surprises have come up for me. Like . . .

Kindles don't include page numbers.

Huh. I get why: the Kindle screen varies from what a printed book page includes, and because you set your own font size, I varies from person to person.

But this gnaws at me as an author. I love that the device tailors the display to each reader, but I have this conception of both chapters and pages as these entities I've created: sort of vessels that hold a certain amount of info. And I don't feel completely comfortable with it being dismissed.

Maybe that's silly, but I have some practical concerns.  It came up this weekend, as I was working on a big expansion and re-design of the Columbine Instructor Guide. We broke out suggested reading assignments for various topics. For example, here's the actual reading list for one topic:

PTSD (and recovery). Pages:
  •     96-98 (Chapter 19 “Vacuuming”)
  •     101-2, 106-7
  •     116-122
  •     281-292
  •     312-314
  •     354-8 (Chapter 53 “At the Broken Places”)

So how do you tell students what to read on a Kindle? Young people are likely to be early adopters, and schools will be a huge market once prices come down.

It also seems to me that I cite page numbers from time to time when discussing books--especially in class, when I was in grad school: constantly. ("On page xxx, I liked how . . .") I would think book clubs have the same issue, though I've never been in one. But they are very important to sustaining books.

Do you guys find yourselves hampered by that much?

I think they need to create something. Seems easy enough. Or is there some other way to do it?

BTW, here's the new look for the Columbine Teacher's Guide / Instructor Guide. We're still working on it. I hope to have it complete next week.

Monday, October 11, 2010

3D can actually hurt a crappy film's business

This is really interesting, from this week's Box Office Guru.

He reports on Wes Craven's "My Soul to Keep" having a "dismal" opening weekend. Then:

Studios are now learning the flip side of the 3D industry which not long ago was a cash cow. With a mediocre film, audiences reject the 3D version since it is too expensive and reject the 2D version too as being an inferior product. 
 Very interesting. Studios saw 3D as a can't miss idea once it got big. If audiences weren't interested enough to pay for it, they'd go to the 2D version. But who wants to go to the crappy version of something that may well be crappy to start with? By offering it in 3D, that suddenly seems like it's intended as a 3D experience.

We'll soon learn more. Also quoting:

A marathon of extra-dimensional films (with higher ticket prices) is heading into theaters in the coming weeks including this Friday's Jackass 3D, Saw 3D right before Halloween, and the animated Megamind a week later. Hollywood is hoping that ticket buyers find these brands more worthy of their dollars.
 BTW, he reported a few days ago that the studio could not get the 3D version of Harry Potter ready for it's pre-Thanksgiving release, so it's going out in 2D. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

When you move, by plane, in July, without a jacket . . .

My new lightweight lifestyle caught up with me this week.

When I moved to Manhattan in July, it was starting over, so I cut loose most of my Denver. I moved by plane: a one-way ticket on United, with two carry-ons, a checked bag and a box.

Sublets are great that way. The place I found is furnished, and I can stay through the end of the year until I find a permanent home--or sign a long-term lease if I decide this is it.

I gave most of my furniture, clothes, and sixteen years of accumulation to Goodwill. But the church lady I hired to help me sort it all, stashed 30 smallish boxes in her basement. The bulk of it is work files--I'm not letting go of all that Columbine research, or the succession of drafts and edits--but I also hung on to some fall and winter clothes.

I didn't even bring a long-sleeve shirt, much less a jacket or a hat or winter coat. The heat was oppressive in July. I was all about adjusting to the stickiness of the humidity here, and the expectation that you not leave the building without a shirt.

(Even in the basement I got some looks--sorting my recyling down there in just my gym shorts, or stripping everything else off to toss into the washing machine.)

Suddenly, autumn struck this week. It happened while I was watching a movie. I sat down in a Chelsea theater Sunday night, spent two wonderful hours with The Social Network, and walked out the lobby door into a different season. It was rainy and nasty, and everyone around me was scurrying around in coats. A couple brushed by with scarves on, one woman wore knit gloves.

It was cold. No umbrella either. They're not really necessary in Denver--I drove everywhere. I hadn't thought about it this way before, but I used my car as umbrella.

The guy I went to the movie with gave me a crazy look. "Didn't you wear a coat?" It was warmer on the way in. He had planned ahead, but not noticed my failure.

"I don't have a coat. Not in this city."

I had thought about it, actually, but only a few days before, when I came out of my cave briefly to check the television and noticed a cold front headed our way. So I texted my trusty church lady, and she rifled through my stuff, put a box together and shipped it, but it hadn't arrived in time.

Luckily, I picked a nice guy to see the movie, and a close one. He lived two blocks from the theater. He loaned me his coat.

My box arrived mid-week. Thanks Valerie. That's my favorite fleece on top, and the loaner jacket I can return now. (And some files I really needed that she dug up, too.)

And I'm wearing the comfy shirt she sent right now. Sure is toasty.

BTW, I shot my first video of my new life in the city this week. Watch for it here and youtube soon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Are we learning anything from these web sex scandals?

And by "we," I mostly mean students who haven't learned the hard way yet.

Last week, we had the horror of Rutgers' freshman Tyler Clementi's suicide, after his roommate streamed live footage of him making out with another guy in their dorm room.

The only upside of that tragedy was the exposure it provided to the 1) the potential impact of any web posting, and 2) the ongoing problems of gay teen harassment and suicide.

This morning, the Today Show broadcast the story of a recent Duke graduate whose elaborate 42-page powerpoint "F*ck List" presentation has gone viral. Karen Owen was graphic and ruthless rating their looks, personality, penis size and stamina. (And reveals her own predilection for violent sex in the process. And her obliviousness to her own role in how "good" the encounters went. )

I won't link to the Today segment, because it's reported by that horrible Jeff Rossen. But has full coverage, with scans of Karen's critique of all thirteen "subject," with their names removed and faces blurred.

In this Karen's case, she has probably done the most damage to her own reputation, though it can't be pleasant to be any of those thirteen guys right now. (I'm not sure getting an all-star rating from this character is all that big a plus.)

You can bet life will be crappy for a whole lot of people at Duke University for awhile. And worse at Rutgers.

Last week, the roommate knew he was putting the stream out to everyone on the web. Karen Owen says she just emailed the powerpoint to a few friends--unaware of the forward feature now provided in some email systems?

In both cases, though, it's unlikely that the perps had any clue just how far the "prank" would go--that there is no eraser on the internet, and that sharing with one person = sharing with the whole world.

It's helpful that in both cases, the perp has been universally portrayed as complete douchebags. (And in the first case, facing multiple felonies. No word on legal action on the latest.)

We are never going to live in a world where everyone learns this. Some of us have probably done something potentially stupid in the past week. We are only saved by the discretion of our friends, and/or the dullness of our encounters. (Are a million viewers really interested in our emails? Not so far.)

But most of us learn something every time we hear this shit--at least for awhile. Hopefully, some 20-year old who still thinks she's invulnerable will shudder as she reaches for the enter key and remember what it did to these people.

I've definitely been shuddering. Am I the only one who's spent the past week with period bouts of that sinking feeling that the web is already scattered with the seeds of my future humiliation?

Thanks God for all the stuff I didn't post.

So . . .

Later this afternoon or tomorrow, I plan to start posting a youtube series on my life in New York City. Hmmmmm.

Haha. I'm serious about posting it, but I think it's pretty tame. As far as I know.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

U Texas shooter's homework assignments leak out

It's interesting how modern technology can help reveal more about perpetrators even if they die in the act.

University of Texas has a service called “Blackboard” on their network, that allows students to share information with others in their class. And apparently the archives stick around, because some of Colton Tooley’s have gone digging back through last year's files and shared them with the campus paper, The Daily Texan.

Local TV station KVUE ran a story about the leak.

(Tooley was the math student who opened fire on campus with an AK-47 last week, but killed himself without hitting anyone else. Here's a recent Daily Texan story on information coming out about him from peers. )

So far, nothing too shocking has been released from the homework assignments, but I bet we'll learn a fair amount from them over time.

He worked on a research paper about gun control, which he said he developed an interest in after the shootings at Columbine and Virgina Tech. That's a little chilling.

That was a year ago, though, so no telling how prominent a role it actually played. If it was significant, we'll learn that in time.

Here's a bit of what he wrote.

“I’ve grown up in a household where my mother is absolutely appalled by guns and my dad grew up with them out in rural Oklahoma and sees them as an extraordinary part of life . . . I have also been to a few gun shows and learned what the people behind the counters, selling AR-15’s, Kalashnikovs, Berettas, etc. have to say on the issue, both by talking to them and by reading their T-shirts."

Here's what I wrote about school shooters and depression when this happened last week.

Monday, October 4, 2010

JK Rowling on Oprah: Giving me hope

I really liked the interview. JK seems very grounded for a celebrity billionaire. Authentic, too.

My favorite part was actually hearing that her first book tour was very hit or miss. That gives me comfort.

Usually, promotional events on my calendar turn out pretty well. Quite a few that I thought I was adding foolishly blew away all expectations—like Cosby High School outside of Richmond. I’m still in awe of what happened that day. 

(The pic is from a few minutes after. Eight hundred kids left the gym, but this group didn't want to go. They cornered me walking off the stage. So I sat down and answered more of their questions. More pix here.

And yet, it’s the total duds that I brace for every time. And there have been some flat out embarrassments. Those moments have kept me from saying yes to some iffy offers.

And time is a big issue, but I think I have to resign myself to some waste. If four out of five work well, the one wasted day out of five is just the price of getting the four, I guess.  

I think I’ll schedule a little more aggressively.

Performance breaks out on my subway train

I was riding the 2 train down toward Chelsea to work Saturday afternoon, and at Columbus Circle, a group of kids got on and announced they were auditioning for a dance show. They would ask for donations afterward.

Then they broke out into this.


The got off at Times Square.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Man down on 7th Avenue

I passed so much crazy stuff in the city today. Most of it made me smile but this was too sad.

I took the long way home from the gym, walking to the subway at Penn Station, and happened by this just before I arrived.

Car door victim, apparently, whacked off his bike.

Lots of confusion, as he had little English. The paramedic asked a passing Asian pedestrian of she spoke Mandarin. Not much.

The paramedic seemed close to concluding he was badly shaken, but all right. She wanted to be sure.

Hopefully he's in bed by now, looked after by someone he loves.

Halfway to the dream

That's my doorstep, that's the New York . . . Observer.

I can't afford the Times. 

I've always had that dream of finding it outside my door each morning, in the city it's written about. (I dream small. hahaha.) The paper's not even about the city so much anymore, but here's the thing, the ads still are. Especially the movie ads--I can actually go to those cool indie films opening weeks earlier here. Those are listings for theaters just down the road from me.

(Imagine my thrill if I actually got musical theater! I don't get it. Yet it's somehow cool anyway seeing TV commercials for "Promises, Promises," cringing for a second and then smiling while I say (inside my head--where I do most of my saying) "I've gone right past that theatre a zillion times already. I could go see that show any time I want. If I could stomach it.")

So my point it, it might be the New York Times Pretend outside my door every (week), but there's something out there to remind me--I'm halfway to the dream and climbing like crazy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blog re-activated and re-designed

I've resumed active posting again this month. I had to take a break from it to finish my book, and then the book tour was so overwhelming, I didn't get back to it much.

(Also, I had to leave that ghastly original salonblogs site behind. It was an early platform based on Radio Userland software that never took off, or improved, and what I nightmare that was.)

I redid the look of the blog somewhat this week, and swapped out most of the sidebar.

What do you think? Do you like the overall look? Too busy, or do you find the gadgets useful?