Dave Cullen's Blog: Conclusive Evidence of Dave Cullen's Existence--The GoodReads Edition, page 8

December 6, 2010

This weekend, I got a last-minute invitation to tonight's live performance and taping of The Moth.

Damn. I love Kristin Chenoweth. And Mos Def, Simon Doonan, Wes Moore, Aimee Mullins and Sirdeaner Walker. Any of these people would be cool to see read/perform. All of them at once. Too nice.

I get asked a lot why I finally moved to New York City this summer. No, not just to see The Moth. But definitely for opportunities like this, which are everywhere, all the time around this place.

It's exciting to be milling about in the same city with all these talented, creative people, too. The energy of this town is just unbeatable.
And I'm keeping my promise not to write about them or it, BTW. So far, I have no compulsion to do that. The upside to waiting so long to come here, and living in about 15 different cities around the U.S., UK and Middle East is that I think my brain has solidified outside of New York.

I don't expect I'll ever write with a New York voice or New York perspective. Which is good, I think. But I'm happy to get to live here.

More on tonight's event, from the invite:
A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power is a very special storytelling event to help combat prejudice and encourage greater tolerance. The evening will include five storytellers sharing a ten-minute, true story about an experience with bigotry or discrimination, without notes, from a stage to a live audience. Each story will highlight a moment of profound self-discovery and strength, making for a powerful and uplifting evening.
More on The Moth:
The Moth is an acclaimed nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling; it was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has presented more than three thousand stories from people of all walks of life. The Moth Podcast began in 2008 and is now downloaded over one million times each month. The Moth Radio Hour has been licensed to more than two hundred stations across the country since it's launch in 2009.  

More on Characters Unite:
Characters Unite, USA Network's community affairs program, was created in January 2009 to address the social injustices and cultural divides still prevalent in our society. Inspired by USA Network's iconic "Characters Welcome" brand and with the support of leading national nonprofit organizations, the ongoing campaign is dedicated to supporting activities and messaging that combat prejudice and intolerance while promoting understanding and acceptance — on-air, online, and in communities across the country.
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Published on December 06, 2010 09:30 • 54 views
This weekend, I got a last-minute invitation to tonight's live performance and taping of The Moth.

Damn. Kristin Chenoweth, Mos Def . . . you can read the list. Any of these people would be cool to see read/perform. All of them at once. Nice.

I get asked a lot why I finally moved to New York City this summer. No, not just to see The Moth. But definitely for opportunities like this, which are everywhere, all the time around this place.

It's exciting to be milling about in the same city with all these talented, creative people, too. The energy of this town is just unbeatable.
And I'm keeping my promise not to write about them or it, BTW. So far, I have no compulsion to do that. The upside to waiting so long to come here, and living in about 15 different cities around the U.S., UK and Middle East is that I think my brain has solidified outside of New York.

I don't expect I'll ever write with a New York voice or New York perspective. Which is good, I think. But I'm happy to get to live here.

More on tonight's event, from the invite:
A More Perfect Union: Stories of Prejudice and Power is a very special storytelling event to help combat prejudice and encourage greater tolerance. The evening will include five storytellers sharing a ten-minute, true story about an experience with bigotry or discrimination, without notes, from a stage to a live audience. Each story will highlight a moment of profound self-discovery and strength, making for a powerful and uplifting evening.

More on The Moth:
The Moth is an acclaimed nonprofit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling; it was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon's Island, Georgia. Today, The Moth conducts six ongoing programs and has presented more than three thousand stories from people of all walks of life. The Moth Podcast began in 2008 and is now downloaded over one million times each month. The Moth Radio Hour has been licensed to more than two hundred stations across the country since it's launch in 2009.  

More on Characters Unite:
Characters Unite, USA Network's community affairs program, was created in January 2009 to address the social injustices and cultural divides still prevalent in our society. Inspired by USA Network's iconic "Characters Welcome" brand and with the support of leading national nonprofit organizations, the ongoing campaign is dedicated to supporting activities and messaging that combat prejudice and intolerance while promoting understanding and acceptance -- on-air, online, and in communities across the country.
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Published on December 06, 2010 09:30 • 37 views

December 4, 2010

Matt Smith of ABC's affiliate WBAY in northern Wisconsin read my Slate XX Factor piece on the Marinette tragedy, and asked me to discuss it on-air.

We spoke yesterday afternoon by Skype. Matt did a really nice job, and you can watch the 2-minute segment or read the transcript. (The video segment starts with a 15-second commercial that you can't avoid.)

I had to chuckle when the anchor introduced me as speaking from my New York City office.


Wow, that sounded official.
I guess I was, actually, though it's a tiny little imaginary home office sectioned off on the edge of my bedroom. As we did it, I thought of my location as my bedroom, but that would not have sounded right. Haha.

I guess the little room divider I put up to fool myself into feeling

I also nearly did the interview in a dirty T-shirt. I put on that button-down shirt to do it earlier in the afternoon, but a few breaking stories caused a couple delays, and I got comfy again. Then just as we were about to start the skype and I was already in position, I realized I was still in my jammies, and delayed for thirty seconds to redress.

(And yes, I was still jammified below the waist, but that was intentional--the wonder of TV.)

None of which, hopefully, detracts from the seriousness of the story. Just my innate goofballishness. I kept all that out of the interview. Here's a bit of what we discussed:

Reporter: "Dave, let's start with your article yesterday in Slate. You write that the way the teacher, Valerie Burd, acted on Monday when she was talking with police could have actually saved her life?"

Dave Cullen: "The adult in the room is very frequently the target, and the authority figure is most often the target, so if there were a target the teacher by far was the most in danger, and by acting as kind of his mediator she almost became part of his team where he needed her, he was relying on her."

I was also really happy to see the station post this on their site, alongside the transcript:
The Marinette school district is thanking people for their support.

In a statement Friday the superintendent writes:

"Hundreds, if not thousands, of well wishes and offers of services have been received across the district, mostly from the local community but also from across the state and country.

"The district especially appreciates the loving support shown by the greater Marinette  community. It has certainly enhanced our ability to begin the healing process.

"This positive support reinforces our believe that Marinette is a great place to live, work, and receive an education."
That's very nice to see. Those people in Marinette are going to have a rough time for awhile. They can use the help. I know the Columbine community was really touched by the outpouring they received. So if you're thinking about sending something--well wishes or something more tangible--do it.

Also see: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site, Columbine Shooting video.
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Published on December 04, 2010 13:22 • 55 views

December 2, 2010

First time gazing at the George Washington Bridge after driving over it.

Changes everything.

First time on it was Monday before Thanksgiving, second time was Sunday after.

First gaze was about an hour ago, at sunset.


That's the path along the Hudson, in Riverside Park, near 72nd St. It's a block from my apartment, where I'm back writing again.

My iPhone seems to have turned it into an Impressionist painting. Not what I expected. Or intended. But I love it.

I wasn't planning on taking any pictures. That never used to happen, until they built the camera into my phone. (And after they mobilized the phone and turned it into an everything.)

I just went out for a walk to clear my head and restart my story. It worked. The bridge helped.

Thank you . . .

@whomever is up there.
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Published on December 02, 2010 16:25 • 34 views
I have a guest piece again today on Slate's XX Factor

Understanding Sam Hengel, the Gunman at Marinette High School
Did a hostage standoff actually take place in Wisconsin Monday night, when Marinette High School sophomore Sam Hengel held 24 students and a teacher for six hours? FBI doctrine suggests no, and understanding how Hengel was actually thinking was key to keeping the people he held alive.
. . . In Marinette, Hengel brandished two handguns, but made no demands. Perpetrators like that are quite common. . . . Shooters in victim crises like Marinette are remarkably similar, says Retired Special Agent Gary Noesner, who founded the FBI's Crisis Negotiation Unit and wrote Stalling For Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator. "Helplessness and hopelessness" are the hallmarks, Noesner said. That's a combustible combination: The person feels powerless to affect his intolerable condition and hopeless that the suffering will ever end.
The full post, at XX FactorAlso see: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.

My previous XX Factor guest was Columbine's Lost Lesson.
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Published on December 02, 2010 08:38 • 39 views

November 30, 2010

From USA Today's site, running a report by the Green Bay Press Gazette:

MARINETTE, Wis. — The 15-year-old Marinette (Wis.) High School student who held 23 students and a teacher hostage on Monday has died.The gunman, identified by Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik as Samuel Hengel of Porterfield, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 10:44 a.m. Central . . .

I sank when I heard the news. I was hoping he would pull through, and expected to be sad if he died. I did not expect to be this sad.

I have learned to expect the unexpected when dealing with my own emotional responses on these traumas. I can only imagine what its like for all the families and friends involved. My thoughts are with all of them, but this afternoon, I mourn especially for the people close to this kid. (And that includes kids he held at gunpoint. God, I would hate to be them.)

How tragic that a kid had to die because . . . we don't even know why because. We do know something about traits most gunmen in these situation share, and I'm working on something about that. In the meantime, I'm just sad.
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Published on November 30, 2010 11:47 • 52 views
The Pentagon report on gays is out. Secretary Gates is on TV backing repeal by the Senate this month.

From New York Times:
At a news conference on Tuesday announcing the release of the report, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that repeal "would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted." 
The Times also has details from the report, many of which had already been leaked. Read the entire report here.

More soon.

3 p.m. update:

I'm reading the Pentagon report, and I'm amazed. Highly perceptive. Thorough, too: 267 pages, and so far, no filler.
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Published on November 30, 2010 11:38 • 38 views

November 29, 2010

I'll keep adding updates to the bottom, as the story progresses.

The hostage situation in Wisconsin has ended peacefully. Within the past hour, AP and others confirmed it is over. Local TV station WFRV had the most complete report I've seen:
MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV) -- The hostage situation at Marinette High School has been resolved, all hostages have been released.

Authorities say the 23 students along with one female teacher have been released from the classroom where they were held hostage by a student armed with a hand gun.

No information has been released yet on the status of the student gunman. . . The suspect had not made his motive known nor had he made any demands.

There had been numerous inaccuracies reported on social media networks including that students have been injured. There were no injuries.
It's a terrible situation, and I'm sure a harrowing night for everyone in that town. I'm glad they all got out OK.

No big surprise on the inaccurate rumors getting reported. Be very leery of snap judgments about the gunman in the coming days. It's not a big surprise the gunman made no demands. That's very common--and telling.

I was happy to see that mental health counselors were already on scene to advise parents and students. Decisions made in those first few hours will impact some of those people for years to come. (It's very easy to re-traumatize victims, vs. methods to limit the initial trauma. We learned a lot at Columbine, and other tragedies.) 

It was also good to see that authorities were meeting with the gunman's family. And county officials said they had run a mock training exercise last year. We really did learn a lot from Columbine. (I get asked that question a lot. Yes, we did.)

I'll follow the story and update or comment if it seems appropriate.

11pm update:

AP reports that Police chief Jeff Skorik said officers heard three shots and then went into the classroom. The gunmen then shot himself. No one else was hit.

He was then hospitalized. No word on his condition.

Midnight Update:

AP now has a pretty thorough story up. The standoff lasted about five hours. The gunman is 15. Still no word on his condition. Other bits:
Skorik said the gunman had refused to communicate with officials during the standoff, but allowed the teacher to speak with authorities by phone.

One of the students taken hostage said the gunman appeared depressed but didn't seem like he wanted to hurt anyone.
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Published on November 29, 2010 19:40 • 40 views
Any students, moms, teachers, cops, librarians or therapists on your list?

They have really embraced Columbine . Also: dads, lawyers, EMTs, firemen, detectives, profs, and school administrators. Or anyone who loves an absorbing read.

The paperback, with new material, is just under $10 at Amazon. The Strand ships autographed copies worldwide.

Sound dark for Christmas? People just want a great read—and something they would not have chosen. Will someone hesitating about the subject be happy you nudged them to discover an unexpected story?
You can now gift a kindle-book: it's $9.99. In physical stores, all Barnes & Nobles have it 20% off all year, because it won their Discover Award for best new nonfiction this year.

That's my completely shameless pitch. Don't be shy about passing it on. Haha. (Especially at book sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and Kindleboards.)

The intro video just passed 20,000 hits for the three months since we relaunched it. Thanks for all the links with anchor text Columbine shooting. They make a huge difference.



Also see: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.
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Published on November 29, 2010 09:09 • 43 views
Any students, moms, teachers, cops, librarians or therapists on your list?

They have really embraced Columbine . Also: dads, lawyers, EMTs, firemen, detectives, profs, and school administrators. Or anyone who loves an absorbing read.

The paperback, with new material, is just under $10 at Amazon. The Strand ships autographed copies worldwide.

Sound dark for Christmas? People just want a great read—and something they would not have chosen. Will someone hesitating about the subject be happy you nudged them to discover an unexpected story?
You can now gift a kindle-book: it's $9.99. In physical stores, all Barnes & Nobles have it 20% off all year, because it won their Discover Award for best new nonfiction this year.

That's my completely shameless pitch. Don't be shy about passing it on. Haha. (Especially at book sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and Kindleboards.)

The intro video just passed 20,000 hits for the three months since we relaunched it. Thanks for all the links with anchor text Columbine shooting. They make a huge difference.



Also: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.
Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Published on November 29, 2010 09:09 • 29 views

Conclusive Evidence of Dave Cullen's Existence--The GoodReads Edition

Dave Cullen
Thoughts on books, writing and hopefully a few other passions from Dave Cullen, author of "Columbine."
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