Wednesday, April 25, 2007
At my newspaper, we're working on a project about school cheating and we're uncovering some fascinating facts. For instance, did you know that as many as 3 of every 4 American high school students admits to cheating in a significant way? So we want to examine the effects of a cheating culture -- or at least a culture that winks at cheating -- on the community at large. Does it truly contribute to a society where the rules are meant to be broken?
We're also looking to expose some creative cheating methods, oif only as a guide for teachers and parents on what to look for.
If you happen to be one of those 3 out of every 4 people who cheated in high school, what was your most creative cheat? What "failsafe" method did you use ... or hear about?
Sunday, April 22, 2007
In San Antonio this weekend, the first "reader" to visit me at Barnes & Noble was Corey Mitchell, a veteran true-crime author and founder of the upcoming In Cold Blog. Corey has pulled together a rather remarkable team of authors, criminalists, editors, anti-crime activists and even a death-metal rocker to blog on crime issues. After June 1, you'll be able to log into InColdBlogger and read the intimate and immediate thoughts of people like Aphrodite Jones, Dr. Katherine Ramsland, Joyce King, Gregg Olsen and many others (me, too) on crime and crime stories. Watch this space for an announcement when it launches.
And right behind Corey was one of my favorite authors, Rick Riordan. I was drawn into the contiuing saga of San Antonio private eye Tres Navarre when I reviewed Riordan's "Last King of Texas." It was the beginning of a fascination with the series, and a friendship with Rick, who has recently launched a children's book series, too.
So what do three writers talk about then they get together? Well, the three of us talked about the joys and perils of book-publishing, about upcoming projects, about other writers from whom we are all seprated by less than six degrees. But we also chatted about our families, about the gray skies outside, about life outside our garretts.
Oh, readers came, too, and they bought books, which I signed. They wanted to talk a little about the story, and I was glad to do it. There's no feeling better than talking to readers, especially when they're occasionally writers, too.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Accoording to The Economist:
"Last year about 13% of website visits in America were pornographic in nature, according to Hitwise, a market-research firm. For comparison, search engines account for about 7% of site visits. ... In Britain search sites overtook sex sites in popularity last October—the first time any other category has come out on top since tracking began, says Hitwise. In America, the proportion of site visits that are pornographic is falling and people are flocking to sites categorised 'net communities and chat.'"
Before you breathe a sigh of relief, it's worth noting that porn is always on the cutting edge of technology and seldom falls behind. The porn industry ushered in videotape, pay-per-view TV and DVD ... so if porn stops being the most popular thing on the Internet, it'll likely be because there's a new technology out there just waiting to take pornography to the next level.
What do you think it'll be? No idea? How does it feel to be dumber than a pornographer?
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The killer who had been a mystery to us for two days was there on my TV. I was suddenly fascinated with this glimpse into his decayed mind ... and simultaneously discomfited by it. Criminy, I'm a lifelong newspaperman and I believe ardently that the more information we have, the better we can decide for ourselves what needs our attention.
But here this sick little freak was, on my TV, telling me how it was -- by extension -- my fault that he had to slaughter 32 people, most of whom he didn't know. Here was the ghost of a cowardly loser lecturing me, us, about civility. Here he was, playing out his Mortal Kombat fantasies as if he knew (and we didn't) what Hell was like. I couldn't look away, and didn't want to ... but what I felt was the morbid marriage of voyeurism and disgust.
My son is a college student. I ache for him. Not just the fearsome world he lives in right at this moment, but for the world in which he'll raise his own children. Cho -- or miscreants like him -- has been around since The Beginning and he'll be around in The End. We cannot identify them and remove them to a safe place. Like other terrorists, we have to be lucky every time, and they only have to be lucky once.
I pray Cho knows what real Hell is like right now. I don't need to see the videos anymore.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Any excuse for me to visit San Antonio is a good excuse, and when it's to sign "FALL: The Rape and Murder of Innocence in a Small Town," it's the best excuse ever! If you are in -- or anywhere near -- San Antonio this weekend, please drop by my book-signing 2-4 p.m. at Barnes & Noble at San Pedro Crossing, 321 Northwest Loop 410.
Great reviews for FALL keep rolling in. Look at these from this week:
— C.J. BOX
Best-selling author of "Free Fire" and "Blue Heaven" and Wyoming native
— BOOKMARKS Magazine
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Last February in Salt Lake City, a young Bosnian immigrant killed five mall shoppers before off-duty police killed him.
How long before the radical anti-immigration crowd begins to agitate for tighter borders? And can otherwise undecided Americans be swayed by the notion that these senseless bloodbaths might have been avoided by a more exclusive immigration policy?
It's unlikely the anti-immigration people will mention that just two weeks ago, a red-blooded, native-born American named Anthony LaCalamita allegedly burst into his former Detroit employer's office and shot three former co-workers, killing one. Most mass murderers in American history have been Americans born and bred -- Charles Whitman, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Charlie Starkweather, Tim McVeigh, Richard Speck and John Allen Muhammad, among several examples.
In fact, according to Mayhem.net, immigrants aren't more likely to become mass murderers than reasonably reared white folks ... even though the American mass-murder record-holder is now a South Korean kid:
"Most mass murderers are male, white, conservative and come from relatively stable, lower-middle-class backgrounds. They are not usually adopted, illegitimate or institutionalized as children. They are usually people who aspire to more than they can achieve. They see their ambitions thwarted, and blame other people for keeping them down. They feel excluded from the group that they wish to belong to, and develop an irrational, eventually homicidal, hatred of that group. Invariably, they choose to die in an explosion of violence directed at a group they feel oppresses, threatens, or excludes them."
Certainly, we can trace several criminal lines to immigrant communities. Italian and Irish organized crime, the Russian mob, and various imported gangs such as MS13, are easily identified as "foreign" elements that tap into rich American veins. But one might argue that these immigrant groups were doing exactly what the immigration fanatics want most: Assimilation. They were merely becoming "real" Americans and reaching for the brass ring by using every cheat in the book. After all, Enron's sleazy bosses might have done more damage than MS13 ever has.
Nonetheless, get ready for the coming anti-immigration storm. Is wiser immigration policy necessary? Yes. Should it be more than talk? Yes. Will it unfailingly reject mass-murderers, terrorists and other criminals? No.
Monday, April 16, 2007
To read an updated version of the VT story, please click here.
UPDATE: The toll today (4/17) stands at 33 dead, including the shooter. It is now, officially, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, more than doubling the morbid prior records.
What a waste.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Well, then you are -- like me -- probably wasting too much of your "hard drive" (your brain) for the sole purpose of storing meaningless data. Sheesh, you need to defrag or dump your Temporary Trivia Files occasionally.
But since you're here, I'll give you a few more interesting facts (courtesy of my friend ThatCleaningLady):
If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee.
(Hardly seems worth it.)
If you farted consistently for 6 years and 9 months, enough gas is produced to create the energy of an atomic bomb.
(Now that's more like it!)
The human heart creates enough pressure when it pumps out to the body to squirt blood 30 feet.
(Just ask O.J.)
A pig's orgasm lasts 30 minutes.
(In my next life, I want to be a pig.)
A cockroach will live nine days without its head before it starves to death.
(I'm still not over the pig.)
Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories a hour
(Don't try this at home, maybe at work)
The male praying mantis cannot copulate while its head is attached to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male's head off.
("Honey, I'm home. What the...?!")
The flea can jump 350 times its body length. It's like a human jumping the length of a football field.
(30 minutes ... lucky pig! Can you imagine?)
The catfish has over 27,000 taste buds.
(What could be so tasty on the bottom of a pond?)
Some lions mate over 50 times a day.
(I still want to be a pig in my next life ... quality over quantity)
Butterflies taste with their feet.
(Something I always wanted to know.)
The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
(Takes a licking, keeps on ticking ...)
Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people.
(If you're ambidextrous, do you split the difference?)
Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.
(OK, so that would be a good thing)
A cat's urine glows under a black light.
(Another expensive government study, no doubt)
An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain.
(I know some people like that.)
Starfish have no brains
(I know some people like that, too.)
Polar bears are left-handed.
(If they switch, they'll live a lot longer)
Humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure.
(What about that pig??)
Thursday, April 12, 2007
To read more, just click here.
I was in high school when I read "Slaughterhouse-Five," only a few years after it had been released. For someone weaned on Jack London and Ernest Hemingway and the frustrating oeuvre of classroom classics, Vonnegut seemed so ... refreshing. His prose was lyrical and loopy and ... fresh. I wanted more, and I quickly blasted through everything he'd written to that time: "Welcome to the Monkey House," "Breakfast of Champions," "The Sirens of Titan," "Cat's Cradle" and all the rest. I didn't know at the time that I was reading the best books he'd ever write, but I became an insatiable 15-year-old Vonnegut fan.
"Slaughterhouse-Five" remains one of the great influences on my writing life; the way he handles his non-linear narrative still impresses me like no other author, except John Fowles. And if one considers its commentary on the human tendency toward self-righteousness, and the need to speak of atrocity and injustice, then maybe Vonnegut secretly influenced my journalistic life, too. By God, I believed a man could fly through time.
In "Slaughterhouse-Five," Vonnegut also taught me the value of a simple, recurring word-moment. In his story, when he wrote about dying or any sort of transition from one state to another, he left us with one simple catchphrase: "So it goes."
Now, Vonnegut is dead. He died last night at age 84. Nothing lasts.
So it goes.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I gotta admit I don't have a dog in this fight. I think Don Imus has suffered a passel of indignations (maybe not enough) that he had coming to him. I think Rev. Jesse "Hymie Town" Jackson and Rev. Al "Only Whites Can be Racists" Sharpton are headline-seeking hustler-hypocrites -- and both pastors who should re-read that part of the Bible about forgiveness. I think anyone who gets a bunch of tattoos should be aware that they might not be making the first impression they wish to make. And I think anybody who is still shocked by radio shock-jocks should be locked up with incurable Pollyanna-itis.
I don't give a whit if Don Imus keeps his job. I don't care who thinks I should boycott his sponsors. I never thought the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team was truly a collection of whores. I stopped listening seriously to Sharpton and Jackson long ago since there are wiser spokesmen for black causes out there.
But I cannot stop wondering why the black community embraces rappers who go far beyond the insults against black women that Imus expressed, in worse language, even as it decries the intolerability of it elsewhere. And I imagine the black community cannot stop wondering why the white community doesn't "get it."
The Imus Affair is worth a conversation, but not a conflagration. Jackson and Sharpton, who are just fanning the flames for their own aggrandizement, should shut up. The Rutgers ladies should graduate and prove Imus wrong by being something more than tattooed ballplayers. Imus should engage his brain before accelerating his mouth.
And listeners should change the channel if they don't like it.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
To read more, click here.
But this magical software also tells me the search keywords that led them to my site. Of all the statistics now at my beck and call -- most of which merely offer a glimpse of technical details -- this one offers a window into the hearts and minds of the people who drift through the cloud of my words. Some are hilarious, some look like homework assignments going bad, some look like porn-prowlers, and others are a little poignant. All touched upon something I had written about, although sometimes they were related only in very obtuse ways.
Imagine what might have motivated a reader to Google the words "tell a love one i am dying." Is someone out there looking for an easier way to unburden herself of a dire secret? Will someone else know that secret before you read this? Will someone be crying when you do? (Google led this reader to a post here about what some trapped coal miners wrote in their final lucid moments to kin up above, and the post asked what you might say in your own death-note.)
But pity the poor web-nut out there who wants to read about a "bestiality charge" or see "Suri pictures." OK, both were subjects of postings on this blog, so maybe I shouldn't be TOO entertained by someone who is searching for such stuff! But Google (and my magic software) gives us a glimpse into the darker corners of some readers' lives, too.
Nontheless, it's a testament to the power of this pervasive medium (some readers yesterday came all the way from Kathmandu, Nepal, Lebanon, Tasmania and Dubai) that people with all manner of dreams, curiosities, fears, troubles and idiosyncracies can log on and find some little bit of what they seek. And I am fascinated by how often that path leads them here. Might we all offer something -- solace, entertainment, information or a few moments of mindless wandering -- to someone in this world? Well, maybe not in this world, but in cyberspace, yes.
Here's a list of search terms that led some readers to Under The News in the past 24 hours (explanations that are italicized in parentheses are mine):
elmer gantry cliff notes (cheater!)
why blacks are racists (probably KKK research)
playmate 2007 no pubic (gee, interview one Playmate ...)
fred phelps hobby lobby (homophobes have hobbies too!)
metaphor in kite runner (still the best book in many years)
bestiality charge (I was acquitted!)
todd leopold (CNN entertainment writer I quoted)
hugo guiler (Anais Nin's first husband)
drivers licenses homeland security
terry tafoya (discredited inspirational speaker)
bonneville salt flats lawnmower record
suri pictures (you know, TomKat's kid)
amy burridge (murder victim in my new book FALL)
a reptile dysfunction (Great headline, eh?)
outlaw word nigger (Brazoria tried.)
surreal life's ron kennedy (who shares a killer's name in FALL)
ron franscell (finally!)
hezbollah official site
world's fastest lawnmower
munich movie true story behind
brokeback mountain-sex photos (I didn't have any)
skyline news chicago jewish graceland
under the news (hooray!)
smartest city usa (Beaumont, Texas?)
pickle muslim montana (I dunno, but sounds freaky)
daryn kagan and rush limbaugh (ack)
dead pool pics
Monday, April 09, 2007
Friday, April 06, 2007
One thing's for sure: George Bush's presidency has done wonders for the economy of Crawford (Pop. 767 when POTUS is in town ... double or triple that when he comes home for vacation.)
And some Democrats believe W has made it easier to raise campaign money in Texas ... for Democrats. The prospect of more Texas Democrats in office, they say, is a GREAT boon for Texas.
Beyond that, the esteemed panelists -- Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater, former Texas Speaker Pete Laney and Texas Monthly's Paul Burka -- saw very few reasons for Texas to celebrate a native son's election.
There are many parallels between Texas presidents LBJ and Bush: They both had big egos and inner insecurities, and both had difficulty winning a war. But LBJ at least brought the Johnson Space Center to Texas; Bush hasn't brought much of anything in the way of institutional booty.
But that's not really the question. The genuine curiosity is whether Bush has been a good representative of Texas values and whether his service has reflected well on the state (which often doesn't even reflect well on itself.) The panelists generally agreed that Bush has reflected a little good and a lot of bad on the Lone Star State.
Largely, they believed that Governor Bush and President Bush are two distinctly different people. Gov. Bush's closest advisers -- Karen Hughes and Joe Allbaugh, among them -- were policy-oriented. But President Bush's closest advisers -- Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, among them -- are politically oriented. Thus, because the MBA Bush tends to put a lot of stock in delegation and counsel, the governship and the presidency have been distinctly different.
But they all also agreed that the biggest bum rap Bush gets is that he's a dumb guy. He isn't. He might not be able to pronounce some words to the satisfaction of elitists, and he might have an accent that sounds "dumb" to most of the world (although Democrats embraced Bill Clinton's Bubba accent and hoot at Bush's. Go figure.) But Bush, they all agreed, is no dummy.
What do you think? And I don't just mean Texans. Has George W. Bush been good for Texas? Has he represented the state well? Has he diminished your view of Texas? Take the little poll above, and leave your comments for all to see.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
But both men made news when their bodies were found more than a year later. Their absence from our midst had been almost as negligible as their presence had been ... but they made the front pages of newspapers around the world when their corpses were finally found. Not surprisingly, the circumstances of their discovery were almost accidental, since nobody apparently cared that they had lived or died.
Writer Erika Hayasaki of the Los Angeles Times writes about Riccardi in some of the best prose I've seen in an American newspaper in a long time. She brings warmth to the blind man who died alone, fleshes out the skeletal news reports and tells us a story. Not a report ... but a fascinating and real story.
Beautiful work, Erika.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Hey, wait, is that backwards ... ? Nope, I guess not. Not so long ago, Fred Goldman -- father of murdered Ron Goldman -- was decrying "If I Did It" as the lowest form of media trash ... and I certainly agreed with him. But now Fred has switched his position ... and so has O.J. Fred now wants it published/produced and O.J. doesn't.
Such an odd world in which we live.
"Our first goal was to make sure the court took away [Simpson's] rights to the book," Fred Goldman told ABC News. "And we've accomplished that. We have stopped him from ever profiting from the book again. The bottom line is that we are taking things away from him, and if I could take every penny in the world from him and leave him homeless on the street, that's what I would do."
Denise Brown, Nicole Simpson's sister, also decried her former ally's plans: "The Goldmans' sudden reversal of positions to justify the auction of these rights … is transparent to their true motive, which is to collect money."
Does O.J. Simpson's book become any less immoral or trashy because Goldman sells it? I don't think so. It'd be marvelous if he'd lock it away and never allow it to see the light of day. But it sure looks like Fred Goldman has succumbed to greed, and that's certainly not an approrpiate epitaph for his son.
But then there's O.J. suing to prevent the auction. Where does he get the money for high-priced lawyers to pursue ridiculous lawsuits? He doesn't own the rights to the manuscript anymore and his say in what is done with it should be confined to letters-to-the-editor, interviews and blogs, not courtrooms. O.J. long ago wore out my tolerance for his behavior. Is it too much to wish he'd just disappear and never be heard from again?
Monday, April 02, 2007
Kids do everything online ... and not always what their parents would like to see. Just leave well enough alone and don't go. Honest. I mean it.
And now it appears that these hard-wired kids are not just living their relationships online, but also ending them there (and in text messages or IMs), too.
A report in today's Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald explores a new California study that finds MySpace is the tool of choice when kids are breaking off relationships.
"By breaking up through MySpace comments, the heartbreaker is attempting to assert their view for everyone else to see so they cannot be accused of saying something else in private, different from what they believe that they did say," says researcher Danah Boyd of the University of California.
Seems pretty impersonal to say "Adios 2 U" by text message. But maybe it doesn't matter. Perhaps it's even one of those signs of progress that, in the Digital Age, all you must do to dissolve a relationship is press the "End" key.
Now I hope someone is working on a "Smite" key.