Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why Homer Simpson Should Never Turn to Crime

Thief betrays himself to get free beer BERLIN (Reuters) - A German phone thief led police right to his front door when they called the stolen mobile to say he had won some free beer and he willingly gave his address.

"An officer called and said, 'You've won a crate of beer'," said a spokesman for police in the eastern town of Neustrelitz Friday.

"Then he asked where he lived so he could drop the beer off, and the guy told him. I think the man was drunk."

I'm all for catching crooks, but this just feels wrong. I mean, it hardly seems sporting. It's like hunting over a baited field.

Friday, April 27, 2007

You Almost Have to Admire the Sheer Chutzpah

Think Progress:

In 1993, current House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) voted numerous times to limit the deployment of troops in Somalia, including one bill that set a six-month timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

But Boehner has taken this hypocrisy to a new level. Despite clamoring for a withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, he had the temerity to charge yesterday that war critics were “walk[ing] out” on Iraq “just like we did in Somalia.”

One humorous example of chutzpah is often given as follows: "A boy is on trial for murdering his parents, and he begs of the judge leniency because he is an orphan."

Or, in the alternative, as Jon Stewart used to say: "DO THEY THINK WE'RE RETARDED? "

Oh, Lord, Here We Go Again Part II

Essay arrest baffles experts :

Police Thursday released portions of an essay used to charge a Cary-Grove High School student with disorderly conduct, leaving several experts puzzled at an arrest based on such schoolwork.

Asked to write about whatever he wanted in a creative writing class, would-be Marine and honors student Allen Lee, 18, described a violent dream in which he shot people and then "had sex with the dead bodies.''

But then he immediately dismissed the idea as a mere joke, writing, "not really, but it would be funny if I did.''

A second disorderly count accuses Lee of alarming first-year teacher Nora Capron by writing that "as a teacher, don't be surprised on [sic] inspiring the first CG shooting,'' an apparent reference to Cary-Grove High.

Lee said Thursday he was "completely shocked'' to be arrested Tuesday for his essay, especially because written instructions told kids not to "censor'' what they wrote.

"In creative writing, you're told to exaggerate,'' said Lee. "It was supposed to be just junk. . . .

"There definitely is violent content, but they're taking it out of context and making it something it isn't.''

"I have no intention of harming anyone,'' said Lee, who has been transferred to an alternative school setting. "I miss school.''

Getting dangerous to write dark stuff these days, especially if you're young and Asian.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Because I Love It When Stuff Blows Up

Demo Engineers "dispose of" 100 tons of unexploded ordnance.

The fact that it was on my birthday (2006) somehow makes it sweeter for me.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Quote of the Week

“All rap lyrics are essentially Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” without the musicianship.”
-Steve Faul, in the comments section at The Little Blog of Murder

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hail to the King, Baby

Big Steve Speaks Out on "Predicting Violence" :

In the wake of the Virginia Tech murders and subsequent reports that Cho Seung-Hui had raised alarms in the English department with his writing, we asked novelist and Entertainment Weekly contributing editor Stephen King for his thoughts on the links between the creative process and violence. Where, exactly, does one draw the line between imagination and disturbing expression that should raise red flags?

It's a good piece. Check it out.


On a brighter note, I did have another great time at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Nathan, Bob, dudes, you shoulda been there.

It was good to see old friends Tasha Alexander and Kristy Kiernan again, and I got to meet Tasha's brilliant husband Matt and their son Xander, who, I must say, exhibited remarkable patience and restraint with the crowd of adults lounging about the hotel lobby chattering nonsense before dinner. He's a great kid, Tasha, you guys should be proud. And Matt, congratulations again on your journal front page. Tasha's new book is at the top of the TBR pile, and the book Kristy's working on promises to be a real barn-burner when it's done. Write faster, darlin'.

Along with seeing old friends, I got to make some new ones. I shared a signing table with fellow North Carolinian Sarah Shaber. For some reason our paths hadn't crossed yet, but I'm glad they finally have. I read Sarah's The Fugitive King on the plane on the way back, and it was mesmerizing. It's a traditional amateur sleuth mystery set in Western North Carolina, and she does an excellent job bringing the people and the atmosphere of the region to life. Tired as I was when I got home, I couldn't put it down until the end. I'm looking forward to getting Sarah's latest, Shell Game.

Other new pals: Melanie Lynn Hauser, Judy Merill Larsen, Cheryl Strayed, Annabelle Robertson, Robert Hicks (whose books will actually make you smarter by the time you're done), River Jordan, Cynthia Langston, Elizabeth Letts, Karin Gillespie (and her extremely cool mom) and Michael Largo. Thanks for all the laughs, y'all. And Melanie, Annabelle: I think that lady in the shuttle on the way to the airport found a little more out about the publishing industry than she expected--or wanted.

And we actually had decent bartenders this time. After last year's surly bar wench, it was a relief to have a pro like Brandon behind the stick. Even with the hotel restaurant closed, he was able to rustle up pizza for a passel of hungry authors. Thanks, Brandon!

Words Fail Me

Dependable Renegade: Dubbya Receives the Purple Heart

I can't even reprint it here. It's too painful. Just go read it while I nip off and shoot myself.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Virginia Tech

Latest Newspaper Column:

A quick preemptive disclaimer here: Some may find a few of my comments in the following column regarding the recent shootings at Virginia Tech inappropriately flippant.

I apologize in advance and offer this as explanation. Experience has taught me that I have two responses to real-life horror: I can find something ridiculous to laugh at, or I can slam my head repeatedly into the nearest wall until I pass out and the pain goes away. My neurologist has advised me that I really need to stop doing the second one. Anyway....

When a senseless mass killing like this happens, your heart has to go out to the victims and their families. But for some, sympathy isn't enough. They need to find someone other than the killer to blame.

First up: Virginia Tech itself. It seems that the killer, a South Korean immigrant named Cho Sueng Hui, first killed two people in a dorm room, who were discovered two hours before the main rampage began. How, some say, could Virginia Tech not have immediately gone into lockdown, canceled classes, and maybe averted the shooting spree two hours later?

Well, for one thing, there's a difference between murder and mass murder. Finding one doesn't necessarily mean that another's about to occur.

Think about it this way: VT has 25,000 students, according to its Web site. Southern Pines has a current population of 11,586. But if someone gets shot at a house on May Street, even if the shooter has fled the scene, they don't lock the whole burg down from Midland Road to the Weymouth Center. Plus, I've visited Virginia Tech. The place is huge. I'm not sure you could shut down anything that big, in two hours, with a crew of campus police.

But, they say, Virginia Tech should have seen it coming because the shooter was kind of weird. Take, for example, his writing. Someone dug up a couple of plays Cho Sueng Hui wrote for English assignments and posted them on the Internet as "Virginia Killer's Violent Writings."

I actually read the pieces posted online, and I'll say this: Even if you take into consideration that English was probably this dude's second language, these are terrible, even by the standards of college English-class writing. But they're also filled with disturbing references to pedophilia and violence. So shouldn't Virginia Tech have seen this whole thing coming and done something?

Well, friends, If you think violent and disturbing writing is a sign that someone needs to be locked up, then I'd have to ask you to please refrain from reading Chapter Five of my novel "Good Day in Hell" (available in bookstores everywhere). In fact, much as I hate to say it, you should probably give my whole oeuvre a miss. And you'd best not look at any Stephen King, or Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy.

And as for Cho, or Hui, or whatever, being off-kilter, this sort of person is not unknown on college campuses. There are a lot of angry, alienated misfits in college. A lot of them turn into professors.

But for truly mind-boggling stupidity here, you have to look to my old friends at Fox News, who have tried to find a connection between a South Korean who moved to the U.S. when he was 9, and -- get ready for it -- Islam.

The shooter, according to Fox's usual unnamed "sources," was found with the words "ISMAIL AX" written in red ink on his right forearm. This, according to the Fox News Web site, "may" have been a reference to Ishmael, son of the biblical patriarch Abraham and the alleged ancestor of the Arab peoples. Why a South Korean would be an Islamist is not explained, because that would, you know, require Fox to make sense.

A mass murderer like Cho Seung Hui robs his victims of their lives. But when he turns the weapon around at the end of his rampage and obliterates himself, he robs the rest of us of something: the ability to make sense of it, the ability to look him in the eye and ask him "why?"

With the actual shooter dead and gone, there's also no one to do the on-camera Walk of Shame into custody, into court, and eventually, into prison. There's no one to be the focus of that media-ready ceremony whereby the whole watching world can hang the blame where it belongs: around the neck of the actual perpetrator.

Robbed of those comforting rituals, people, especially the pundits of what some have dubbed "the chattering class," want to rush in and fill the void. With the shooter out of their reach, and nothing much to say to or about him, they want to find someone else to blame. And I have to say that some of their targets are pretty silly. But the victims deserve better than this sort of blathering.