Monday, January 31, 2011

Anarchy on Wikipedia, captured visually

There is a picture. It's from Wikipedia, though indirectly:

I found it quite amusing, along with the 99 other variations you can click at Notabilia.

More on that in a second. The reason I found it so intriguing, is because I've been backstage at Wikipedia. I was an early adopter there, back in the early 00s, I contributed to quite a few articles, and tried my damnedest to correct some of the nonsense on the highly volatile Columbine page.

In those days, anyone could change anything, without even creating a user ID, and with no audit trail on who did what. It was just a mess, and some of the articles reflected it.

In most cases, I think most people had the right idea, and would look for legit sources. But it didn't take many ignorant know-it-alls who would plunge right in "correcting" something based on hearsay they had never bothered to check anywhere. (If they had heard it somewhere, that version must be true.)

I witnessed a lot of that firsthand.

The reason Wikipedia got so popular so fast, though,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Year's Resolutionaries: Soon departing a gym near you

Here's a test. I tried both these cereals recently. Which is healthier?

Both are filled with healthy ingredients, a very low 6 grams of sugar, and almost no fat. On fiber--the key factor I look for--the bran has 5 grams, which is quite high, but Kashi has 10, the most I've ever seen. Kashi also has four times as much protein, a whopping 13 grams, which it says is as much as an egg.

So clearly, the Kashi is the healthy choice.

Not for me. The bran is much healthier. Because I'll eat it.

I'll eat lots of, and enjoy it, and won't feel deprived and be dying for something more satisfying at lunch.

I find this brand of bran flakes quite tasty, and crunchy, too--even without the imaginary blueberries, which you have to add yourself. The Kashi is like a bowl of twigs and stems. Yuck. I'm sure some people like it, but not me.

So I'll try to finish the box because I'm frugal, but it will be my last. Healthy foods and workouts only work when we actually use them. For long periods.

I like broccoli, hate grapefruit. So only one goes on my plate. There are so many delicious foods to choose from in the world--why would you ever put something you dislike in front of yourself? And how could you believe that's going to work out in the long run?

Which brings me to the real subject of this post. Last January, I complained on my facebook page about all the resolutionaries making it tough to get a locker, parking space or workout bench at my gym.

A lot of people chimed in to second my frustration, and then came some push-back, from friends making a new go of it. They could use a little encouragement, they said. The sniping felt nasty.

Point taken. My apologies again.

And this year, a little help, hopefully.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Go Black Swan

I finally got to Black Swan Sunday night. It's a masterpiece.

I can't take the Oscars seriously, but I do admit to watching with a mixture of anticipation, horror, anger and disgust. So it was nice to see a film as edgy as Swan get a Best Picture nomination, and a total of five--even if it is sure to lose the big one, but get one for Natalie Portman instead.

It's definitely the best film I've seen in a few years.

It was also kind of a relief. The first Darren Aronofsky film I saw was Requiem for a Dream, and I mostly loved that, but . . . it was a little much. Brilliant guy, but it got a bit ridiculous. And beyond hard to watch. Almost impossible to bear.

The Wrestler was also pretty sadistic. It was a rough time emotionally for me, after finishing my book, and I almost had to leave.

Swan was intense for sure, and I guess "hard to watch" at times, but not like the others, and with way more payoff, all the way through.

I don't think it should be read 100 percent literally. I liked the literal part, but I liked more about how it captured the struggle of creating art--how it can feel. It felt like ten years of my life played out in two hours.

And it inspired me to write again.

On other Oscar fronts,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2010 Discover Awards finalists announced

Hey, big congratulations to the six authors shortlisted for the 2010 Discover Awards from Barnes & Noble:

I was just in signing books at the Union Square store this week, and picked up the flyer, to discover this year's picks have been announced.

And I was giddy to see two of my favorites on the nonfiction list, David Dow for The Autobiography of an Execution, and Rebecca Skloot for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Teachers: Dates open in my March school tour: Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee

I'm doing a mini-tour of schools six weeks from now, and am open to adding more high schools or colleges.

Please pass this on to teachers, professors principals, etc.  

Thanks for helping me get the word out.


  • Where: metro Chicago, St. Louis, and possibly Milwaukee
  • When: Feb 28-Mar 4
  • What: Usually a one-period presentation with Q&A, usually to the whole school or half school. This is flexible.*
  • Cost: There is some cost, but I'm trying to keep it really reasonable by doing several schools on one trip.
* There is a lot of flexibility on this. We can do your normal class period, or one hour, or longer.

Topics: This is also very flexible, but I normally talk about a mix of:
  • The four major types of shooters--what we can learn from these tragedies, and how to prevent them.
  • Overview of the Columbine tragedy and what we can learn from it.
  •  The psychology of the two very different Columbine killers.
  • Teen depression.
  • Overcoming adversity. (There are amazing stories of kids who lived through it and made stunning physical/emotional recoveries.) 
  • Writing, the writing process, and the road to a writing life for students.

My booking agent is dealing with an illness, so at this time, email me directly if you're interested: dave at

The picture up top is at Cosby High near Richmond. I ended up speaking to them for two hours, which is quite unusual.

The picture below is from the Richmond Times Dispatch. The photo was taken a few minutes after the session, when I sat down on the edge of the stage to chat with students who still had questions. 

More info here.

We also created a Columbine Instructor Guide which is available online free of charge.

Five Great Books I'm Sure You Haven't Read

A wonderful site called The Hipster Book Club asked me to take part in their annual Five Bests lists for 2010. The Tucson tragedy and a few other events in my life delayed me posting this, but it was a lot of fun.

They said I could pick five of anything, so I decided to go with Five Gems You Haven't Read.

Here's the opening of my entry:

I was unaware that writing a book would produce more of them—in my mailbox. It's pretty cool, getting galleys. If only they came with the time to read them. Mostly, I don't make it ten pages, but man, when one connects . . .

These first three are minor masterpieces. I'm about halfway through each of one. I'm slow. And I'm savoring.  Look for them in early 2011. You will be richer for it.

1. The Architect of Flowers by William Lychack (out March)

This one made me a little sad. My dream is to write like Nabokov, and this guy is too damn far ahead. I kept questioning whether I could get there. Now it's revving me up to try. 

Architect is the first book to remind me of my mentor, Lucia Berlin. They both tell deceptively simple stories about "ordinary" working class characters. William brings them to life with tiny insights and dazzling images he seems to exhale into every line.

I was hooked by the title story, but still went, Ugh. I don’t want to read about flowers. But three pages later, I was wishing it would roll on and on.

Read my four other picks here. (Scroll down toward the bottom, by my pic.)

And check out the other great entries, too. They include Jillian Lauren, Benjamin Percy, David Bezmozgis, and Jill Alexander Essbaum.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We interrupt this diet . . .

The diet is going well. Generally.

But the other half of this chicken is currently hanging in my intestinal tract.

I started the diet right after Christmas, after inhaling an entire jumbo bag of Lays potato chips within the first half hour of arriving at my brother's for Christmas Eve. (It's my favorite comfort food. And joining the family is very high stress.)

It's a low-key diet, which has worked well for me in the past. Just a few basics:

So tired of murder

I'm not sure how that post title will come across. I hope it doesn't trivialize murder, or make it seem to all about me. I'm just being honest.

We have been dwelling on murder for over a week now nationally, and I'd spent way too much time on the subject already. I feel like I've taken way too much in, and exceeded my limit. I might not be done yet, though. I've got to decide how long to continue writing about it.

But I'm ready for a break. So for something completely different . . .

A few interesting things I stumbled upon this week:

Five Fonts We Never Want to Read Again, from Flavorwire.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

For Tucson victims: Don't Rush the Healing

The whole country is mourning for the victims in Tucson, Ariz. This week, we'll face the funerals, ushering in a whole new wave of grief.

And then, quite abruptly, most of us will tune out. The length of public interest varies by tragedy, but the pattern is always the same. We put the event behind us and move on.

And we expect our victims to do the same. We will cut them slack, of course. They can grieve all month if they need to, maybe longer. It's healthier to move on, though. The sooner they can accept it the better.

Slap yourself the first time you hear that thought in your head. Do not let it escape your mouth.

The biggest lesson I learned in 10 years covering the massacre at Columbine High School was the pain we collectively inflicted upon the victims with our rush to get them healed.

Read the rest at AOL News, where I published this essay as an Opinion piece. (I gave them exclusive use, so I can't publish the whole thing here.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just released from the Pima County Sheriff: Case Reports on Jared Lee Loughner

Just released:

The Washington Post generously shared them with me, and I'll link as soon as they have a story and/or the documents up.

I'm reviewing them now.


The Washington Post story on the release.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My segment on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show: 'Inside the mind of a killer'

Here's the video to my segment on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show today. They called it "Inside the mind of a killer."

(Update: I added links at the bottom to my NPR segment, AOL News piece, etc.)

We discussed Jared Lee Loughner and four categories of mass murderer, including what I learned covering Columbine, and other tragedies since then, such as Virginia Tech.

I hope the show was useful. 

I was really happy with Dylan as host. We met during the commercial break before the segment, and it was immediately obvious how bright he is. And thoughtful, too. You get a sense of people in this business right away, and I could tell he was after insight, not drama or stunts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm writing about the Tucson tragedy for various publications

I'm working on the Tucson tragedy this week, writing for many different publications.

So I'll try to post the links here, and more quickly on Facebook and Twitter. (Feel free to friend/follow me there.)

Today I have two pieces up, and another one will be on AOL News shortly.

Today's pieces:
Tucson, Jared Lee Loughner, Columbine, shooting, mass murder
WNYC: Shooters Aren't Just Politically Motivated or Crazy.

The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma: A Reporter's Lessons from Past Shooting.

The latter is the sidebar an outstanding new feature, Covering Mass Killings, by Dr. Frank Ochberg and Bruce Shapiro. Dr. Ochberg founded Dart, and is often quoted by NYT on these incidents. Brilliant guy, very wise. Read it.

More soon.


I'm booked for MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show tomorrow (Tuesday), during the 4pm ET hour. TV tends to overbook though, so I may get bumped.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Full youtube video of 'Introduction: Jared Loughner' in screen prints

Here is the youtube video titled "Introduction: Jared Loughner."

I screen-printed each frame, and copied them below. If these are too small to read, let me know, and I'll make them bigger.

Meanwhile, New York Times has a really good story about his recent erratic behavior.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Patti Smith's book just came!

No sooner had I finished complaining about the loneliness of life as a writer (deep in the comments), than the door buzzed.

Books! Yea!

I've been pining for my own copy of Patti Smiths' Just Kids since it came out last spring, but too cheap/poor to buy a copy.

Explosions outside my window—transformer on fire!

There were several explosions and a lot of smoke.

Now about thirty firemen milling in clusters in front of my building with hatchets, five hook and ladders stretching down the block. (I'm near Lincoln Center, on the Upper West Side.)

They say a transformer blew, under the street one building over from me. It's still on fire.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another school shooting; Is there an answer? Yes

Another kid shot up his high school in Omaha, Nebraska yesterday. More kids are quietly committing suicide.

It can be depressing. It should be a call for action. Not because it's a new problem, because it's an old problem, which we have failed to address: depression.

The frustrating part, but also the hopeful part, is that we can stop most of these suicides. Not all, but most. Kids rarely kill themselves out of the blue. It's generally the final act of a long battle with depression.

We don't yet know whether depression was an issue with Robert Butler Jr. yesterday. He killed Assistant Principal Vicki Kaspar, wounded the principal and then killed himself.  Millard South High School is not the point. It's too late to save Vicki Kaspar. But we can save faculty and students around the country, and we do know that depression is a major factor in most cases.

A few startling statistics:
  • Six percent of American adolescents suffer from clinical depression.
  • That's 2 million kids.
  • Most go undiagnosed.
  • Most are treatable, but untreated.
The main challenge is getting the right info out to the right people. So I've put together some resources I hope will help:
A few highlights:
For gay kids
Warning Signs of Depression
From National Institute of Mental Health

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Today's garbage update

I'm just tickled that that would ever be a post title. And that people would know what I was talking about.

Fresh pix in the last hour. Full week-long evolution here. (I've added these there):

72nd St., in the daylight.

Suddenly higher on the side streets. Preparing for the pick-up, presumably.

71st, near West End:


I like how they're building walls out of it. New frontiers in modern terracing.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Evolution of a garbage storm: A week in pictures on the UWS of NY

Rising, slowly, from the snow . . . Garbage.

The blizzard struck eight days ago, hitting hard and fast. We overcame that pretty quickly. The garbage has risen gradually.

The last five days in pictures:

The first piles were apparently planted before the storm. By Wednesday night, December 29, they were already coming free.

72nd St., near West End Ave.