The Daily Sheet Dave Cullen Chats About the Ultimate BBM Forum, Fog, and His Next Gig
May 7, 2006
Sure, you see his picture every day, but how much do you know about him? Dave answered our list of questions to give us a peek at his life on and off the Forum.What do you think of the phenomenon of this BBM Forum? (which has morphed into something more than mere proof of your having existed?)
I continue to be amazed. I kind of feel daunted by this question, because I could never do it justice. I really never foresaw anything like it. I was going to say that the film exceeded my wildest dreams, but the truth is, it pretty much fulfilled my wildest dreams. The site, however, really did exceed them, and that's a preposterous understatement. I really had no idea to dream this big.
I'm still overwhelmed by it, and really moved by what it has done for people--and what so many people have done for it. My family is also perplexed by what this site is, exactly--I think they find it more incomprehensible than the time it takes to write a book. Hahaha. But we do. I tell them you really have to visit the site to get it. You just have to meet a few of the people here, and then you know. And you know why it's all worth it. The following is a brief sketch of some of the things Dave has done up until now:
--Grew up in Chicago, describes himself as a “recovering Catholic boy.”
--Began a “brief, wild, impetuous fling” at journalism in his late teens and early twenties; covered the1980 presidential race; followed President Carter around for a day; interviewed George Bush Sr, just before he was elected VP (all before Dave was 21.)
--Gave up writing (temporarily) at the age of 21, did a stint in the Army, got a Math and Computer Science degree
--Spent ten years as an analyst and management consultant at Arthur Andersen and Ross Perot's company, EDS.
--Completed a two-year carpetbagging stint after the Gulf War that allowed him to travel in Europe, North Africa and South Asia.
--Went to grad school at the age of 35 to study creative writing and anthropology in Boulder, Colorado.
--He returned to journalism 1999, just in time to be one of the journalists on hand in Littleton on the fateful day the Columbine story broke. He broke several major excluvies on the tragedy, including the first leaked passages from the killer's journal, the first interviews with the lead investigator and with the head of the FBI investigation, and the revelation that the Christian-martyr incident never occurred.
--He has contributed to Slate, Salon, NPR and The New York Times. His writing awards include Society of Professional Journalist awards, Best of Salon awards and a GLAAD Media Award for his series "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Fall In Love." Links to several of his best known stories are available here: http://blogs.salon.com/0001137/stories/2003/06/16/linksToSomeOfMyBetterPublishedWork.html
Dave took some time away from his book deadline to answer our questions: Currently listening to?
That Dandy Warhols theme from Veronica Mars. Currently reading?
God, I had to swear off reading for awhile until I finish at least ¾ of my book. I was gobbling up books left and right last year, but I think I need to let them settle a bit. They were all so inspirational, but in retrospect I feel a bit like Nabokov described himself at Cambridge: the rush of all the English mixing with the Russian was germinating amazing things for his future sentences, but was ravaging them in the short run. I needed to stop ravaging for a little while to let my own voice make its way back to center stage.
But favorite books last year—both in my all-time top five now—As I Lay Dying and The Sheltering Sky. Wow.
Lately I read the forum. WAY too much. Hahaha. Biggest challenge?
Discipline.Your perfect day?
I have always hated that question. It doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. I can’t conceive of the glorious days in advance, they tend to surprise me. What’s your indulgence?
I’m not sure I want to go into that here. Hahaha. So let’s just go with potato chips.What’s you inspiration?
Nabokov. Faulker. Films constantly. Zoorapa was a seminal moment, for so many reasons. Lately, walks and bike rides fill me with ideas. I never leave the house without two or three pens and a paper folded into quarters in my butt pocket. Lately, I need two, that’s a good sign. Anything that cracks me up, and that’s a lot. Funny people and ridiculous situations, which seem to hurtle themselves at me, endlessly.
It’s always changing, though. God, the whole fucking world inspires me.
Hmmmm. OK, not all of it. Not even most of it. But a hundred different things a week, which is only a miniscule fraction of the billions of stimulate I encounter in that time. But it never seems to be the same. They wear out, and new things reveal themselves to me. That’s what makes them inspirational.
Lately the color of light on the buildings and the grass in the last hour before sunset, oddly. Which I never even noticed until my last bf pointed it out, and then I still rarely noticed, but lately it keeps leaping out at me. The changing perspective of budding trees and craggy old houses and tall buildings as I ride my bike, and every once in awhile I notice the mountains on the horizon.
Lately, the way characters are introduced in films. Junebug was revelatory, the first episode of Six Feet Under even better.Last major Purchase?
A dishwasher. How mundane, but how fucking glorious. So many fewer hours washing the damn things. One of my most-hated tasks in life. I have a very small apartment, and it didn’t have one, and for five years I gritted my teeth and then realized I could buy a portable. I don’t care if the kitchen is even more of a squeeze, I just never want to wash another spoon.First job?
God, what is “first”? I had paper routes and all sorts of little gigs before I hit puberty. First one that really had a big impact was being a bagboy and cart-fetcher at a Jewel Food Store in high school. Kinda came out of my shell working there.
First career-kinda job was the army. Which was not intended as a career, but became one, until I broke my back.Wow - you were in the army - what was that like?
(excuse me, broke your back?)
It (the army) was great. Not really at all what I expected. I just enlisted for two years--until I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up--and to my surprise, I wanted to be a soldier. And they sent me to OCS, which was the hardest thing I had ever done by a mile, which really altered my conception of what I could do. I was fundamentally changed by that. I think it's made everything else seem possible, since then. When Arthur Andersen asked me to go to Kuwait after the war, I said, "OK." Didn't really seem that daunting. (Although it turns out I underestimated it. Hahaha.) What do you know for sure?
That I’ve got something to say. Hahaha. That’s why I write for a living. Really, though, I don’t know a lot of things for sure, but I’m pretty sure I should be writing.
Oh, I’m also pretty sure that fog exists. My all-time favorite road sign: We have one in Colorado that says “Fog conditions may exist.” A road sign only an agnostic could pen. Favorite Movie: (besides BBM)
I’m torn between Wild At Heart and Moulin Rogue. Both of which made me feel totally alive. I posted a long take on Moulin just this week when I was supposed to be totally focused on a huge book deadline.
Lengthy description of why in one of the film threads here:http://davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=235.msg206302#msg206302If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
“I’ve been waiting for you.” Hahaha. Serious answer, “Good job.”
Speaking of this question, I want the one that starts, “If fog exists . . .”Do you lurk or post often in the Forum?
I post a lot in the A&E threads. I lurk when I don’t have time and am supposed to be focused on my book. But then I get sucked in.Your favorite threads?
All the ones I started? Hahaha. Actually some of them I started for other people, but some near and dear to my heart are book excerpts, overlooked films, God, most of the film and TV threads. The box office thread was my all-time favorite, but that’s kinda done now. Hahaha.
It’s kinda nice that I don’t have an anxiety attack every morning if boxofficemojo hasn’t posted the previous night’s grosses by11 a.m. Denver time. I can actually get my work done in the morning again
I loved most of the Brokeback threads in “The Film” and “The Impact,” and the awards areas, but I could only have those discussions so many times. We had over 5,000 posts in the old Salon-blog version of the forum before we started this site, and I read every one and it felt like I responded to half of them. I have to be careful about which threads I dive into, because I can’t stop myself. Sometimes—many times—I have to forbid myself from going back to a really active thread, or I can lose entire days. I had to impose a rule on myself about the homophobia thread and the masculinity thread, or I’d be there right now.How many times have you watched BBM?
Only one. I’m not ready yet, but soon. I started getting really depressed in December, and a close friend who’s also a doctor said I was “ruminating,” and I was getting clinical. I promised my shrink to pull back, and not to watch it again until I was ready. I’m not allowed to listen to the theme song either—I have to turn the sound off if I go to the BBM website. But I’ve reread the story endlessly. (I like the film better than the book, which is rare. That’s sort of the problem.)Your favorite BBM scene?
Second scene in the tent. I’ll have to go back and find the 17 times where I described why. I can’t write that one more time. Hmmmm, maybe this will force me to be pithy. Why do I like it? The intimacy.
But the confrontation scene near the end is close. There are about three that are close. The shirts, ugh.Is there a question I didn't ask you that you want to answer anyway?
You never asked what I want to be when I grow up. Pope, definitely.
Although I may have disqualified myself about 47 different ways.Do you spend most of your time working on the Columbine book?
Yes. I rented a studio down the hall from my apartment to set up a work space and pile up all the stacks of evidence. The sheriff's department released more than 20,000 pages of police files, and that's only one small chunk of the evidence that's been accumulated--there are also warrants and videos and 911 tapes, and reports from the FBI and governor's commission and another county, and my hundreds of hours of interviews. I wade back into that stuff nearly every day, and keep doing interviews periodically, in between writing and rewriting. It's kind of overwhelming sometimes. I've never taken on a project this big before. Even the Kuwait Oil Company project right after the war seems small in comparison--although that was pretty daunting at the time. Your last published article (or whatever?)
My Slate story "The Depressive and the Psychopath" led to the book deal, and I had to give up magazine writing until I finish it, though I think I did sneak out for one story for Salon afterward. I think it was on Mary Cheney, when her sexuality became a huge issue when Kerry mentioned it in one of the 2004 debates. And all the news people were going along with the line that it was despicable to drag someone's daughter in like that, and I just could not take it. I believe the thesis of my piece was "calling a lesbian a lesbian is not an insult. or an embarassment." good god. but I've stuck to the book since. My family can't understand why I haven't finished the damn book already, but then they've never written one.
You can read the story here: http://www.slate.com/id/2099203/Dave, just so you know – none of us doubt your existence.
We are all here because of Brokeback – and also, because Dave is hosting us. I’m sure everyone joins me in thanking Dave for beginning this community of sharing, learning, and friendship.Last Day to Vote on the Book Title!
Don’t forget to vote before 10 p.m. today (Sunday) on the book title! http://davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=7693.0We Know the Truth
The following stats were posted by Roland
in the Awards Aftermath:
“As it currently stands (Saturday, May 6)”
-- 77% of BBM's reviewers on Amazon rate the film 5 stars. (It jumps to 85% when you combine 4 and 5 star ratings).
--Only 48% of Crash's reviewers rate that film 5 stars.
--Conversely, only 5% rate BBM as 1 star.
--Yet, a full 18% (almost one out of five) rate Crash as 1 star.”Channel Your Brokeback Energy
Also in the Awards Aftermath thread Zuraffo
, asked “Who is still seething about the Oscar Snub and what are you doing about it?”
replied “I want to remember those feelings”
and offered his personal list of action items. Here are a couple of my favorites:
“--These feelings have fuelled my own writing, and I'm writing a lot these days, essays and fiction.
--I haven't been to the theater for a movie since March (other than BBM) and I'm much, much more selective.
--Even less TV, even more reading.”
--I'm making plans next spring to send letters to editors to as a reminder of this year.
--I'm hoping to encourage BBM screenings or private parties in our area at that time.
To see his full list, go to this link:http://davecullen.com/forum/index.php?topic=1643.msg213122#msg213122Please send me your home viewing stories
(two to three paragraphs, full viewing of DVD with friends or relatives who have not seen the movie before.) firstname.lastname@example.org
See my home viewing story in Tuesday, May 2 Daily Sheet, just scroll up. Thanks
We count on you to send us your news items, questions, and nominations for posts of the day. Thanks!
The Daily Sheet is a production of The Ultimate Brokeback Forum at davecullen.com Editors: tellyouwhat and cactusgal.
Today's edition edited by tellyouwhat