Saturday, December 15, 2007

When do students become threats?

When is student writing a warning sign? This question is debated singlehandedly by Chris M. Anson of North Carolina State University in Academe, the magazine of the American Association of University Professors.

How about student role-playing? This past week, a Frostburg State University student was arrested, and his dorm room searched, because of comments he allegedly made on a live audio feed while playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on Xbox Live. Call of Duty 4, like countless other computer, card and board games, awards points for "killing" one's "enemies." Whatever this guy said in the heat of "battle" prompted police to swarm across campus the next morning, and lead the student away in handcuffs -- though police later conceded, according to a follow up Cumberland Times-News item, that he "did not have the means, nor the intent, to carry out the threats."

Once more into the wardrobe

Amid the tablid bonanza that is the faked death of John Darwin, the discovery of his secret passage through a wardrobe is leading headline writers to do plays on C.S. Lewis. The Sun had "Liar, witch and the wardrobe" Dec. 8, and ABC News had "The Liar, the Switch and the Wardrobe" Dec. 10.

Speakers for the dead

At noon every Tuesday during the semester, at the clock tower in the middle of the Frostburg State University campus, names, ages and hometowns of U.S. troops killed in the current war are read aloud by volunteers, a program organized by the United Campus Ministry. I was one of the readers on the last Tuesday of the fall semester; here's a photo Sydney took.There are far too many to name all in one session, so four readers take turns reading names, in alphabetical order, for a half-hour each week. During my week, we were in the D's. And so on, week after week.

"Excellent pen! Some issues ..."

Since graduate school I've been fascinated by fiction in non-fictional formats. Here's one I haven't seen before, a short story written and posted as an Amazon customer review ... of a Bic Crystal ballpoint pen with, apparently, Lovecraftian qualities.

I admire Robert Carlberg's comment, too.

Thanks to my hero Barry Johnson for passing this along.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Dracula Innocence Project

In the grand tradition of the Richard III vindicators, the learned Sherlockians and Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton universalists comes the Dracula Innocence Project, which is seeking contributors to help clear the name of you-know-who:
Was Dracula framed? Why did a small group of people chase a terrified Transylvanian dignitary through the streets of London, and fatally run him through with a blade? We'll examine the evidence. You be the judge.
This is the doing of Paul Bibeau, author of the non-fiction book Sundays with Vlad. I salute him.

Thanks to Elizabeth Miller for passing this along.

A fine phildickian T-shirt

Thanks to David Lowe for passing along this last minute Christmas-gift idea.

The Rapture Index

The current Rapture Index is set at 158, meaning "Heavy prophetic activity." Its author explains:
The Rapture Index is by no means meant to predict the rapture, however, the index is designed to measure the type of activity that could act as a precursor to the rapture.

You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.
Note that the index refers to the European Union as the "Beast Government."

A Roman Catholic priest once said to me, during a conversation about believers in the Rapture: "We Catholics don't have to fool with that." He then looked heavenward and added, "Thank you, Jesus."

Thanks to David Lowe for passing this along.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

International logic

That Iran stopped its nuclear-weapons work in 2003, says Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is a very bad sign:
They had the program. They halted the program. It's a warning signal because they could restart it.

Review of "Unique Chicken"

Los Angeles Times columnist Ed Park lists Eclipse One atop his short list of "Favorite SciFi Books of 2007," but discusses only one story in the book:
Is it science fiction? Is it even speculative fiction? Andy Duncan's odd, mesmerizing short story "Unique Chicken Walks in Reverse" belongs on this list of my favorite 2007 books in this genre mainly because it kicks off "Eclipse One," a new anthology series edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade). Five-year-old Mary O'Connor has a chicken that does just what Duncan's title says; it's a "frizzled" fowl (feathers growing on the inside) that she has named Jesus. Sacrilege or homage? Father Leggett comes to investigate. Mary later went by Flannery, and Duncan's brisk little fiction develops into a sly variant of O'Connor's intense modern morality tales.
I'm delighted by this, but I must not have explained well enough in the story that "frizzled" actually means its feathers grew in backward -- and it's "Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse." But if you praise one of my stories in the Los Angeles Times, I reckon you can call it what you want! Thanks, Mr. Park.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Good for Hannah

I read in the Cumberland Times-News that our next-door neighbor Hannah Llewellyn, who takes care of our cats when we're away, is earning all A's and B's in sixth grade at Mount Savage School. Go, Hannah!

Good advice

I enjoy Amy Dickinson's Chicago Tribune advice column "Ask Amy," syndicated in our local paper. Her Dec. 8 column has the pithiest advice yet:
Dear Amy: If the boy I like likes someone else, and she likes him back, and that someone is somebody I hate, and the boy ignores me, what should I do? -- Boy Trouble

Dear Boy Trouble: Your homework.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Gamecock centennial

Today I received a post card from one of my several alma maters, the University of South Carolina, telling me the student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock, is celebrating its 100th anniversary Jan. 30, 2008, and planning a reunion celebration of former staff members Feb. 22-23.

Ah, nostalgia. It was just The Gamecock when I worked on it, fall 1984 through spring 1986, because it was published only three times a week, not five as it is today. If we had published five times a week, I'd probably still be struggling to graduate. My titles at the paper, in order, were staff writer, entertainment editor, assistant entertainment editor (yes, I was demoted), copy desk chief and columnist. I also drew a few cartoons and wrote a few editorials, including the Jan. 29, 1986, editorial mourning the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Since I graduated and left the Gamecock staff, more than 21 years have passed. That's more than a fifth of the age of the paper, and more years than I had lived when I first walked into its newsroom.

Here's the reunion webpage. It could use some copy editing, but what else is new?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A long-winded headline

The Cumberland Times-News runs some of the longest headlines I've ever seen. Here's a doozy from the Dec. 3 paper. If you make it to the end of the headline, there's no point in reading the story.