December 06, 2007

Reading at Gist Street tomorrow Night 8 pm

All you Pittsburghers check me and fiction writer Ben Percy out at the Gist Street reading series tomorrow night at 8pm. Get there early if you want a seat--at least this is what I'm told.

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December 04, 2007

Good Jazz is Hard to Find

This is a clip of a friend of mine George Burton's group. If you're not into jazz then don't watch.
clipped from
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November 28, 2007

The Limits of Social Justice?

I'm beginning to research attitudes towards the homeless and homelessness for my next book, and it just so happens that a very interesting debate is underway in Roanoke, VA, about an hour southwest of where we live now.

In January 2007, Roanoke conducted a study of the homeless population and found that the number of homeless had increased 326% since 1987. The City Council is worried that Roanoke is attracting too many homeless people. Councilman Bev Patrick is characterized in the Roanoke Times journalist Mason Adams as being "fed up."
clipped from

"It's about the fact that we're letting people come here because we're too daggone nice," he said. "They find out about it, and they're coming. We've got to corral that. I just say plug it, somehow, so we're doing the right thing for the people of this valley who need us and we're not doing it for everyone else."

 blog it

November 19, 2007

The Content of this blog is "Genius"

Someone sent me a link to a service that will evaluate the reading level of your blog. You put in the url and it scans the content and voila! I'm not sure what the different levels are--I saw one site that said "undergraduate." After only a few seconds an icon with a brain came on the screen proclaiming that is "Genius."

My parents will be happy to hear this.

You can get your blog evaluated here:

October 23, 2007

Good News All Around

Just a quick post to spread some good news.

Last week my wife, Jessica Mesman, found out that her essay "It's a Wonderful Life" received an "notable essay" distinction in the 2008 edition of Best American Essays, edited this year by one of my heroes, David Foster Wallace.

The essay orginally appeared in Image, which is a fantastic journal and worth subscribing to.

I also got word that my book was reviewed in the American Book Review, which is available on-line if your academic institution or library has a subscription to Lexis/Nexis or the like. It was a very positive review/essay by Christopher Robbins, Assistant Professor of Social Foundations at Eastern Michigan U. I'll try to put excerpts up here, but I haven't figured how to turn a pdf into html. I am computer illiterate.

October 10, 2007

Colgate University

I'm on a little break before I give a reading here at Colgate University--what a beautiful place!--and while checking my email ran across this article in the San Francisco Catholic, a diocesan newspaper in SF, covering a recent talk by retired Army General Taguba at the University of San Francisco. Taguba is, of course, the author of the Taguba Report, the official report commissioned by the US Military to investigate what happened at Abu Ghraib prison.

His talk reveals much of what we already know, but it is well-worth repeating: Defense Sec. Rumsfeld was antagonistic toward Taguba after learning of the unfavorable nature of the investigation and, it seems, either lied under oath in the Senate hearings looking into the prison scandal, or was intentionally not fully briefed by his aids on the investigation's findings in order to shield him from being complicit in the scandal.

The most poignant aspect of his talk was his statement that though he was not responsible for leaking the now-infamous Abu Ghraib images to CBS, which ended up on 60 Minutes in 2004, he believes that whoever did were within their First Amendment rights and, furthermore, that if it weren't for CBS the world would still be in the dark about what happened there. In fact, he said at his talk, the American public and the world still doesn't know the half of it. There are images, according to Taguba, that make the ones leaked seem tame--a video of a female detainee being sodomized by a soldier, for one. A video, it should be mentioned, that shows another soldier in the background with a video camera taping the assault.

I'm off to the reading. More on Colgate later.

Here's the link:

September 25, 2007

Internet Radio

Just a quick update to tell you that you can hear an interview with me and Wayne Koestenbaum, author of the fantastic new book, Hotel Theory on "The Eclectic Word," a radio show hosted by Victor Infante.

Check it out here:

We talk about everything from Abu Ghraib to George Hamilton--no kidding.

Also, for those of you in upstate New York, I'll be reading at Colgate coming up in October. See the links along the right side of this blog for more details.

August 27, 2007

Grace Paley, Dead at 84

August 25, 2007

Iraqi detainee numbers up 50%

A bit from the NY Times article by Tom Shanker:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24 — The number of detainees held by the American-led military forces in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing to 24,500 today from 16,000 in February, according to American military officers in Iraq.

...Nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody are Sunni Arabs, the minority faction in Iraq that ruled the country under the government of Saddam Hussein; the other detainees are Shiites, the officers say.

Military officers said that of the Sunni detainees, about 1,800 claim allegiance to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group that American intelligence agencies have concluded is foreign-led. About 6,000 more identify themselves as takfiris, or Muslims who believe some other Muslims are not true believers. Such believers view Shiite Muslims as heretics.

Those statistics would seem to indicate that the main inspiration of the hard-core Sunni insurgency is no longer a desire to restore the old order — a movement that drew from former Baath Party members and security officials who had served under Mr. Hussein — and has become religious and ideological.

But the officers say an equally large number of Iraqi detainees say money is a significant reason they planted roadside bombs or shot at Iraqi and American-led forces.


The rise in numbers seems to indicate that the US military is using similar insurgency-combating tactics as the French in Algeria: round up the suspected and...then...what? Is there any other way to put down an insurgency? Just when you think you've got all the politically and religiously motivated rounded up, here come the soldiers of fortune.

Is there any denying that War is attractive because it is profitable, especially when your economy is struggling.

August 16, 2007

I Have Moved

Sorry for such a long hiatus--not that anyone is really out there waiting with bated breath for my posts--but I like to err on the side of decorum.

One reason for the long break is that we have moved to Virginia. I am now gainfully employed at Sweet Briar College. Extremely beautiful country down here. Cell phone reception is awful, but that's a perk as far as I'm concerned. I'll post pictures ASAP.

Those of you in Southern Virginia: I'm giving a reading at the College Sept 5th at 8 pm. Mail me for more info at


July 15, 2007

Breaking Radio Silence for News of Lynndie England

I'm away on a summer teaching gig, so I haven't been keeping up with the blog, but this AP story picked up b the Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey seemed worth posting.

Essentially, England, after being released from a San Diego military prison in March, has been hired to the volunteer recreation board of Keyser, West Virginia, a town in the state's eastern panhandle.

Here's a bit from the article:

...England, 24, contributed her knowledge of computers, electronics and graphics for Keyser's Strawberry Festival, which helped her land the unpaid position, said Roy Hardy, the England family's attorney.
"When (council members) saw how hard she worked for the festival, they didn't hesitate to put her on the board," said Hardy, who is also a board member. "If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't have been able to pull off (the Strawberry Festival). She was an absolute asset."

England handled the festival's advertising, scheduled entertainment acts and helped set up vendor booths and stages, among other things. She also helped organize a spring fishing contest and the city's Independence Day activities.


I'm going to let John Stewart and Stephen Kolbert handle this one...

June 10, 2007

Proximity to Darkness: The Collected Stories of Leonard Michaels

For those of you who have never read Leonard Michaels, or just read one story and thought "he's a pervert," here's your chance to really get to know and appreciate his work better. FSG has just published his Collected Stories and republished his autobiographical novel, Sylvia. Both books are reviewed by Mona Simpson in today's NY Times Book Review. Simpson "gets" Michaels--at least I think so--and gives some fascinating insight into how he a New York Jew who only spoke Yiddish untl the age of 6 came to be one of the most lyrical writers of American vernacular.

I teach his story "Murderers" often and I write about its influence on me in my book. Uncannily, Simpson focuses on the same story in her review. In fact, the title of the review, "Proximity to Darkness" is, uncannily, very close to the title of the chapter in my book, which I titled "Some Proximity to Darkness."

The thing that makes Michaels worth reading, especially now, is that his stories span the spectrum from young boys fascinated by the mysteriousness and strangeness of sex to adults mired and addled by their own sexual rapacity. I took immediately to Michaels' work, because unlike his contemporary, Phllip Roth, he is able to express the the sorrow and disillusionment of the libertine lifestyle, while making you laugh. His work is not merely cleverly, ironically or situationally funny, but comedic in that deep divine way which has you smirking to yourself because you recongnize the impulses driving the characters.

Michaels' work helped me to see that there was a way to write about being an adult male that wasn't annoyingly self-lacerating or idiotically macho.

May 29, 2007

Are the Restrictions on War Journalists Doing Us a Disfavor

Check out this op-ed by David Carr in the NY Times. Not sure that I can agree 100% with his thesis, but it's a provocative piece.

One corrective I'll point out immediately is that Carr sites Matthew Brady as one of the pioneers of war journalism, but neglects to point out that Brady came along after the battle was over and took photos of the fallen, often having his aides move the bodies to create more dramatic poses.

May 27, 2007

Drama: Another Casualty of War

Check out this insightful article exploring Time's theater columnist, Christopher Isherwood's, "certain impatience" with "Journey's End," a critically well-received play now on Broadway written by a WW I survivor about British solidiers waiting for a German attack.

From the article:

[As to why "Journey's End" is flopping with audiences]:

"A potential conclusion: War in the newspapers isn’t necessarily good for war on movie screens and stages. The conflict in Iraq (and Afghanistan) is so much with us these days that maybe audiences have no inclination to engage with stories from old battlefields.

"Can you blame them? We absorb images and information about the current strife every time we turn on the television, listen to the radio or pick up a newspaper. Obviously not much of the news is good. As the steady drumbeat of grim statistics rolls on — the rising death tolls, the roiling sectarian violence — Americans can perhaps be forgiven for failing to warm to entertainment that underscores what journalism is making brutally plain every day: War is a cruel and destructive enterprise that maims or destroys the lives of people on all sides, even when fought for a noble cause.

"Perhaps right now audiences don’t need to — or can’t bear to — revisit testimony from the past, however artfully and honestly it is presented, to experience the range of emotions that an encounter with the ugly realities of war elicits. Compassion for human suffering, dismay at man’s brutality, understanding of both the moral beauty of courage in the face of danger and its often painful inefficacy: We can cycle through these again every time we read or see detailed accounts of the everyday human costs of the conflict — in life, in prosperity, in dignity and happiness. Art can evoke little more pity and terror, to use those old Aristotelian words, than the immediate news of the waste going on in the world today, intimately taken account of in the best journalism.

"If the freakish success of the recent movie “300” is any indication, a lot of Americans are hungry for narratives that offer escape from the uncompromised truths of the world as it is today. This luridly silly epic offers refuge from the increasingly unavoidable idea that war is always an ethically complex enterprise that can be as demoralizing — and dehumanizing — for the apparent victors as it is for the subjugated. War as a cartoon battle between good guys and monsters more easily satisfies a taste for vicarious excitement after all."


So, I'm with all of this, especially the success of "300," which I haven't seen, but a friend of mine whose judgment I trust says she just laughed her ass off the entire movie because it was just so over-the-top, melodramatically masculine.

What I'm disappointed with in Isherwood's article is his comparison of previous wars to the current:

"...Several years into a confusing war with complicated foes and several years after the Sept. 11 attacks, we may have finally reached a point where the old forms of war fiction are no longer capable of giving us the solace and understanding we look for from this kind of material. Stories of noble sacrifice amid the comparatively uncomplicated moral climate of the two world wars seem so remote that emotional indulgence in them seems too much like escapism, a turning away from the truths that we need to keep our eyes sharply focused on."

Indeed, the reason our current "foes" are our foes is very "complicated," as is the reason why we're in Iraq in the first place (Afghanistan isn't so hard to understand, intially, since that's where Osama was shacking up). BUT to say that the first two world wars, from our historical perch, were waged in a "comparatively uncomplicated moral climate" is, if not historically farsighted, at least hubristic--to use another of Aristotle's dramatic terms.

What's wrong about it? Well, there was tremendous reticence to enter WWI. In fact, war was seen by many in the U.S. as barbaric, irrational, something of the past. The U.S. involvement in WWII was delayed, in part, by fears of getting involved in another war like the first. And it should be pointed out that in neither war was the "moral climate"--an unfortunate, inexact, yet smart-seeming po-mo phrase that has made its way into our lexicon as shorthand for the shifting attitudes of the people, that is subtly disapproving of "moral" as an ethical category--"uncomplicated" for untold numbers of conscientious objectors who went to jail for refusing to fight, or the many women involved in the pacifist movement.

Also, to say that the current war is more "confusing and "complicated" is to surrender to the post-modern tendency to see all contemporary situations as irreducible to any one set of analytical tools or cultural perspective. Indeed, it is important to try to understand the impulses that lead many young people of the Islamic faith to become suicide bombers. In fact, art is trying to pick up that slack with a rash of books dramatizing the lives of such people (Delillo's "Falling Man" dramatizes the last moments in the cockpit of one of the planes that hit the WTC on 9/11). But of what use is such fine rhetorical gesturing, concentrated cultural analysis or artistic exploration if we (and I mean everyone), at the end the day, can't agree, or just plain refuse to pass judgement, on whether or not violence is a workable solution to conflict?

If we really want truly complicated drama, we need to start looking more closely at those who refuse to fight under any circumstances, who would turn the other cheek, not just as a thought-experiment but as an ethic to live by, no matter the consequences. My guess is that such drama would strike audiences as tragic, but in that contemporary sense of the word, wasteful.

Thanks to the Students of DePaul U

So I was told not to expect very many students for my reading, it being the end of the semester and all, but when the reading began the room--capacity 36--was filled, standing room only. The final count was over 70. Thanks so much for the great questions and for buying books, which helped defray the cost of gas ($3.75) from South Bend to Chicago (90 miles).

May 20, 2007

Reading at DePaul Univ. this Wednesday

I'll be reading from my book and answering questions this Wednesday at 7 pm in room 312 of the DePaul University Student Center. Click on the title of this post for more info. Hope to see some of you there.

May 02, 2007

NYT report: College Students Curious (More than Ever) About Religion

I'm drawing attention to this article in the New York Times ( "Matters of Faith Find a New Prominence on Campus" because it is typical of the coverage religion is getting these days.

Here are some highlights in which nothing much at all is actually said and when somthing is it's vague:

“All I hear from everybody is yes, there is growing interest in religion and spirituality and an openness on college campuses,” said Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame. “Everybody who is talking about it says something seems to be going on.”


"David D. Burhans, who retired after 33 years as chaplain at the University of Richmond, said many students “are really exploring, they are really interested in trying things out, in attending one another’s services.”


Here's my favorite, which closes the article:

"Among the new clubs is one created last year to encourage students to hold wide-ranging dialogues about spirituality and faith. Meeting over lunch on Thursdays in the chapel’s basement, the students talk about what happens when you die or the nature of Catholic spirituality.....

"The discussion was off and running, with one student saying one needed only to believe in “something outside yourself” and another saying that “sometimes ‘Thank you’ can be a prayer...”

"...Afterward, several students talked about what attracted them to the sessions, besides the sandwiches, chips and fruit. Gabe Conant, a junior, said he wanted to contemplate personal questions about his own faith. He described them this way: “What are these things I was raised in and do I want to keep them?”

Look, I'm pleased as punch that folks are asking these difficult questions, but this article reads like something from the Onion--"Something's going on, but no one knows what it is, really." I mean the tone the article takes is, "Holy shit, what's going on here--this is weird--college students asking deep existential questions!!"

I have an idea, why don't you actually interview some of the students instead of just getting talking-head pull-quotes from chaplains, sociology and religion professors? And why no interview with an actual theologian?

But maybe the most clear sign that, as I argue in my book, the mainstream press is not at all equipped to cover matters of religion is this moment:

"The Rev. Lloyd Steffen, the chaplain at Lehigh University, is among those who think the war in Iraq has contributed to the interest in religion among students. “I suspect a lot of that has to do with uncertainty over the war,” Mr. Steffen said."

Notice the way his view is characterized "among those who think," as though it is widely known that there are all these other people expressing this opinion. Similarly, the caption of the accompanying photo [a group of Colgate students sitting in a circle, heads bowed in prayer] reads: "One of a growing number of religious student groups at Colgate." Here, the phrase "growing number" is used to gesture, imprecisely, toward an increase in an unknown number of religious groups. For all we know, this is the only one, but surely more are expected given this nation-wide epidemic of faith. And this is to say nothing of the ambiguous "uncertainty" in the Iraq War that had "a lot" to do with an interest in religion among students.

So what's the point of such an article? What is its newsworthiness on a scale of 1-10? I give it a 3, but it could have been much much higher had the writer focused on the students and why they're asking these meaningful questions.

April 17, 2007

Taxi to the Dark Side: Bagram Abuses (finally) Explored

The Huffington Post (click on the title of this post to go there) is reporting on a sneak preview of the new documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which focuses on the abuse and murder of two detainees at the U.S. military-run Bagram airbase in Afghanistan. I write about Bagram in my book, so it's gratifying to hear that someone has continued to press for more information on the incidents that took place there, which are too often overshadowed by the Abu Ghraib scandal.

April 06, 2007

Good War in Wash Post, Subliminally

I got this email this morning from Peter Manseau ed. of Killing the Buddha (

Hi Dave --

I just spotted this and thought you'd get a kick out of it: a Home
section feature by Sally Quinn, wife of former Post editor Ben
Bradlee, about how to decorate. There's an interactive image of her
library, and sure enough A Good War is Hard to Find is there on the
coffee table:

I could spot that cover a mile away!

Hope this finds you well,

April 03, 2007

Another Review...This one at Bookslut

April 01, 2007

Religion and Activism Blog (Pie and Coffee) to Host A Discussion of Good War

Check out the site "Pie and Coffee: Activism, Religion Hospitality" at for a week-long discussion of "A Good War is Hard to Find." Pie and Coffee is run, according to the site, by "Catholic Wokers, personalists and Adam Villani."

For those of you not familiar with the Catholic Worker Movement, check out Wikipedia ( and

Thanks to Pie and Coffee for hosting the discussion.

March 31, 2007

"Good War" Reviewed in New York Times Book Review!

After many months of teasing and leading us on, the New York Times Book Review has seen fit to publish a review of my book, A Good War is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America." (Click on the title of this post to read the review. Also, make sure to check out the link to the first two chapters of my book.) We kept hearing that there was "still a good chance" and that the editors "were waiting for it to be assigned a 'run date'" Frankly, I abandoned hope a couple months back when the Book Review ran a "War" issue, but now here it is, and on April Fool's Day, no less.

Christopher Sorrentino, author of the novels "Sound on Sound" and "Trance" (a finalist for the National Book Award) wrote the review. I'm reading "Trance" right now, and I have to say that the man can write--not that he needs my validation--just for the record.

The review is also accompanied by a very smart graphic (see above image) by Lenny Naar. Good work, Lenny.

Here's a taste of the review:

In the manner of Susan Sontag’s “Regarding the Pain of Others” and Roland Barthes’s “Camera Lucida,” the book is quiet, offbeat, at times intensely personal. Griffith claims that “the Abu Ghraib photos are the very picture of the American soul in conflict with itself,” that the reaction to them “calls attention not to a difference but a similarity in belief between author and audience.” He sees an enormous gap between the viewing of disturbing images and contemplation of the ways in which we are implicated in the acts they portray. It’s a valid observation, as we continue to fight a war whose strategic rationale, in part, is surely to allow us to continue to pay less for a gallon of gasoline than we do for a bag of Chips Ahoy.

Thanks to Soft Skull and Richard Nash and my agent Andrew Blauner for whatever voodoo spells they cast to make this happen.

March 27, 2007

"Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" Screening Snafu (As Told by a "Whistleblower")

Click on the post title for a look at an article by former Army Sgt. Sam Provance an intelligence analyst at Abu Ghraib stationed there when the notorious abuses occured. He describes the "surreal" upper-crust, dog-and-pony show screening of Rory Kennedy's documentary, "The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib" in Washington D.C. Provance was the only soldier present, besides former Gen. Janis Karpinski, formerly in charge of 17 military prisons in Iraq. Also in attendance were Sen. Ted Kennedy (D) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R) who lead a Q and A/discussion following the film. What went down is worth reading about...

March 20, 2007

Billboards for Lionsgate Film, "Captivity," Rankle Parents

This is the movie poster for a new film that is causing a furor in Hollywood. Imagine this on a huge billboard.

This, from an article in the LA Times:

Shanise Laurent and her friends left Palms Middle School one afternoon last week and stopped for a soda at Jack in the Box.

Shanise, a seventh-grader, didn't need me to point out the billboard across the street. She said she had noticed it the day before.

"What a graphic, nasty billboard," said the 13-year-old.

Her sister Rachel, 11, was in agreement, as were their friends.

"There's kids who walk around here," said Taylor Shaw, 13, who didn't think kids should be subjected to such images on their way home from school.

"I think it's scary," said Cameron Olivas, 12.

Across the busy intersection of Overland and Venice was one of 30 billboards in the Los Angeles area promoting the May 18 release of the film "Captivity." The ad consisted of four panels:

Abduction, in which a terrified young blond woman has either a gloved or black hand over her face, as if she's being kidnapped.

Confinement, in which she's behind a chain-link fence and appears to be poking a bloody thumb through the fence.

Torture, in which she is flat on her back, her face in a white cast, with red tubes that resemble jumper cables running into her nostrils.

And Termination, in which her head dangles over the edge of a table, the murder complete.

Hooray for Hollywood.

March 11, 2007

Posthumous Susan Sontag

Check out this review in the New York Times Book Review of Susan Sontag's At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (FSG).

I have yet to pick this up, but I plan on it. Her 2004 essay in the New York Times Magazine on the Abu Ghraib prison photos, "Regarding the Torture of Others," was one of the reasons why I began writing my book, A Good War is Hard to Find.

March 04, 2007

AP Photos deleted by U.S. Special Forces

February 19, 2007

Flattering Review in The Literary Review

Ben Freeman at Fairleigh Dickinson U's The Literary Review has written a flattering review of Good War in their Winter issue. Click on the title of this post for a look.

Here's an excerpt:

Encountering Griffith’s nonfiction debut, a collage of images interwoven into eight essays of thoughtful criticism, we learn to see the Abu Ghraib photos as imaginative pathways. We find ourselves standing behind a nude Iraqi in a Christ pose, fearing with him a guard with a weapon raised. We are naked, clutching inward in fear and holdout modesty. And in a sheer 180-degree shift, we are the photographers, we know our own fear, our power. As the author writes, “We meet ourselves coming and going.”

Thanks, Ben.

February 12, 2007

Why Are the Pascifists So Passive?

An op-ed from the NYT by Lynn Chu and John Yoo:

...The fact is, Congress has every power to end the war — if it really wanted to. It has the power of the purse. Its British forebears in Parliament micromanaged the monarchy quite a bit, for instance by making money (the “sinews of war”) contingent on attacking one country and making peace with another. And there is more direct precedent: In 1973, Congress affirmatively acted to cut off funds for Vietnam. It also cut off money for the Nicaraguan contras with the Boland Amendment in 1982.

Not only could Congress cut off money, it could require scheduled troop withdrawals, shrink or eliminate units, or freeze weapons supplies. It could even repeal or amend the authorization to use force it passed in 2002.

A pullout, however, would have no chance of success, because its supporters are likely to lack the two-thirds majority necessary to override a presidential veto. But to stop President Bush’s proposed troop surge, Congress doesn’t have to do anything. It can just sit back and fail to enact the periodic supplemental spending measures required to keep the war going. Congress has wielded considerable power by just threatening such measures, as with President James K. Polk in the Mexican-American War and President Ronald Reagan in Lebanon after the 1983 barracks bombing.

The Constitution doesn’t pick winners. It leaves it to the three branches to use their unique powers to struggle for supremacy. James Madison, the leading intellectual force behind the Constitution, rebutted Patrick Henry’s firebrand attack on executive war powers during the Virginia ratifying convention by reminding him that Congress could control any renegade president by stopping the flow of money.

But with power comes responsibility. The truth is that this Congress is not sure what to do in Iraq. Its hesitation reflects America’s uncertainty and divisions. Antiwar bluster is high at the moment, echoing popular frustration and grim news from Baghdad.

February 09, 2007

Celebrating the Work of Brett Yasko

Click on the title of this post for a flattering article about Brett Yasko, Pittsburgh-based graphic design guru. He designed my book and won an award from the AIGA for it. For a closer look at the design and a statement by Brett on the design, go here:|s2=1|eid=1209

An excerpt:

“It’s crucial to think about everyone out there,” the lanky, soft-spoken Yasko says, “and hope my designs have an effect on them. I’m touched when they do.

“I always wanted to make things,” [Yasko] adds. “Design is good for that. Design is where I’ve fallen.”

Fallen is far too passive for so rich a graphic portfolio, so powerful a vision in two dimensions – especially given the raves Yasko’s getting all over town. All over the world, in fact. With clients in New York, Virginia, and Barcelona, Yasko has placed his graphics in the Whitney Museum’s permanent collection, the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) Denver archives, Partisan Project’s poster archives in LA and so on. As a fave of New York’s Princeton Architectural Press, he’s designed three books.

Books? In this e-age? “I feel great when I finish a book,” Yakso says. “It goes on a shelf. It has a permanence. I love books.”

February 05, 2007

Good War excerpt in Utne Reader

Click on the title of this post to read my most recent publication in the Utne Reader.

February 04, 2007

Two Charged in Manhole Murders

Click on the title of this post to read the South Bend Tribune's coverage.

Also, check out an interesting story on "scrapping" in South Bend:

February 02, 2007

South Bend Trib reports on National (and local) media attention garnered by Manhole Murders

I had a pleasant surprise yesterday when South Bend Tribune reporter Alicia Gallegos showed up at our apartment to ask me a few questions about my interest in the murder of four homeless men mere blocks away. She had read this blog and after a bit of driving around, she spotted the green awning that I mention in my post about the murders. She guessed at which doorbell to ring and got it on the first try. Despite attempts by my 13 month-old daughter to rip the pen from Alicia's hands while taking notes, we had a nice chat about the ongoing case.

Click on the title of this post to read Alicia's Tribune article.

About the photo: This is the photo that accompanied the story on the South Bend Tribune's Web site. It is of the New York Time's photographer walking near the train tracks where the men were found. Post-Modern anyone?

February 01, 2007

Good Article in Sojourners (makes mention of Good War)

January 31, 2007

Nice words about Good War

Book reviewer Colleen Mondor is working on a review/article about my book for Bookslut and posts on her blog:

Griffith's book is deeply personal; it's a collection of essays of his thoughts on everything from Hiroshima, the bombing of Dresden, the Abu Ghraib scandal and the motivations of those directly involved that draws on all sorts of pop culture references. He writes about Flannery O'Conner at one point and Deliverance and Pulp Fiction at another. High culture, low culture, even the weirdness of his wife's old boyfriend having a home built electric chair in his living room (college boys are such fun, aren't they?). It all wraps around and comes together in Griffith's mind as he tries to understand and come to terms with his place in a country that largely identifies itself as Christian and knows about such violence but determinedly remains oblivious to the real impact of that violence on others.

This is exactly the sort of small thought provoking book that I think should win awards and I'd love to know if anyone on any of the big nominating committees has even ever heard of it.

Thanks, Colleen!!

January 20, 2007

A Brief History of Bohemianism (a working title)

We live in an old brick apartment building within a few blocks from the center of downtown South Bend, county seat of St. Joseph County in northcentral Indiana. When people ask where we live I tell them that our building is one block from a great stone, ivy-covered mansion built by the Studebakers, the once great car manufacturers whose plant closing in 1964 left 30,000 people jobless. South Bend hasn’t bend the same since. The mansion is now a restaurant that is known for their fancy brunch and as a destination for summertime wedding receptions. Big white tents are pitched on the lawn and when it gets dark luminaria mark the stone steps leading down to the dark grass so tipsy twenty-somethings don’t trip and sue. When I was a student I never went to this part of town at night, now I live here.

We chose to live here so we could be closer to downtown where there is a well-appointed liquor store, two coffee shops, a decent breakfast spot, a bar that doesn’t allow smoking and even a couple art galleries, but we are also on the verge of one of the worst neighborhoods in South Bend, the near west side, where just two weeks ago two men were found bludgeoned to death at the bottom of a manhole on the crest of a railroad trestle, four blocks away. Three days later two more men were found in a similar state in a manhole just one block east from the first. As it happens, the men are all known to be homeless, frequenters of the Hope Rescue Mission, a few blocks east of where their bodies were found, and the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker House, which is one block further. Police are treating the deaths as murders, most likely connected to the underground “scrapping” business, a hustle in which scrap metal is collected and redeemed for cents on the pound at scrap yards. Although to say it’s “collected” is to overlook that fact that much of the time the metal is copper wiring, plumbing pipes and aluminum siding stripped from vacant homes; or, in the case of these four men, from old industrial sites, such as the half-demolished Stuebaker manufacturing plant. The police say that the manholes the men were found in provide access to long tunnels that run beneath the old Studebaker plant and give access to the decimated factory, tunnels that contain electrical wiring that could be cut and stripped of its copper and sold. The police cautioned that the tunnels are so long that after awhile they cease to contain breathable air, which sounded like an urban myth purposefully perpetuated in order to dissuade future scrappers. In any case, it is believed that these men were in the process of scrapping—perhaps even working together to pull off a large scrap score. An acquaintance of one of the men is quoted in the South Bend Tribune that his friend asked him if he wanted to make 250 bucks and then hinted at a plan to push something out of a window, possibility something far too heavy to carry—maybe an old piece of machinery or a boiler.

When the third and fourth bodies were found is when I began to worry about my family; specifically, I worried that Jessica would hyperbolically conclude—as she usually does—that we were all going to die at the hands of some homeless serial killer lurking in the sewers bopping people over the head; that he would find his way into the building through the drain in the laundry room. I decided not to tell her because as I parked the car at the curb outside I happened to look up and see the train underpass in the distance and realize that it was the very place that the men were found.

January 16, 2007

Four Murdered Homeless Men Found Blocks from Our Apartment

This week I've begun work on an essay about the recent discovery of the bodies of four homeless men at the bottom of a manhole. They were found a couple days apart in manholes near railroad tracks owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, the same railroad my dad has worked for for 30 plus years. My interest in what the police are calling murders is that I can see the railroad viaduct from the front of our apartment here in South Bend. Police believe that the men were murdered while in the act of "scrapping," a slang term for salvaging scrap metal for money. This past May, amid a rash of house guttings in which copper wire, plumbing and aluminium siding were stolen from abandoned houses and construction sites, South Bend passed an ordinance making scrapping a more serious offense. Click on the title of this post for more on the murders.

Above are pictures I snapped of the area near where the bodies were found. Stay tuned for more and excerpts from the essay.

January 08, 2007

Link to Harvard op-ed

Harvard Faculty Shoots Down "Faith and Reason" Requirement

I've just been forwarded a pdf of an op-ed from the Dec 15, 2006 Wall Street Journal in which Professor of Religion Richard Schmaulzbauer of Missouri State U takes Harvard to task for not following through on the university's Task Force for General Education proposal to require all students take a course that would fall under the broad heading, "Faith and Reason."  The proposal came with the rational that the tension between religious faith and reason is one of the defining issues of our times and a course broaching the subject is necessary for molding informed citizens.

I reported on  this back in October or November, I believe, and was very excited by the prospect.  In fact, I figured this was a done deal, but didn't know at the time that such a proposal would be voted on by the faculty.

Schmaulzbauer laments the defeat of the proposal as a missed opportunity for Harvard to set a precdent for other universities and colleges to take faith seriously.

In place of a course on "Faith and Reason", the faculty has countered with a course on "what it means to be a human being."

It seems to me that such a course must deal in some way with religion, right?  We'll see.

The books I'm reading right now in preparation for my next book project would make for an interesting reading list for their proposed class on "being human":

William James' Varities of Religious Experience

Harvey Cox's Religion in the Secular City

On Killing by Lt. Dave Grossman

What books would you add?

January 07, 2007

Excerpt from Good War in Jan/Feb Utne Reader

Don't know if I mentioned this or not, but the check out the latest Utne Reader for an excerpt from my book.  It has a snazzy title: "An Orchestrated Attack : War's sound track echoes from Dresden to Baghdad." 

The chapter concerns the my experience playing Daniel Bukvich's  Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam Dresden) as a sophomore in high school and how it changed my life.  Ok, a little dramatic, but true.

Recordings of Bukvich's symphony aren't readily available. Trish from San Mateo, CA already wrote to ask where she could get her hands on a recording.  You can download recordings of it here:

January 05, 2007

Boy hangs self after seeing Saddam death

HOUSTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- A 10-year-old Houston-area boy apparently hanged himself accidentally while mimicking Saddam Hussein's execution, police said Thursday.
Sergio Pelico's mother told authorities the boy had been watching a TV report on the execution of former Iraqi president on a Telemundo news broadcast before he hanged himself.
"It appears to be accidental," Police Lt. Tom Claunch told the Houston Chronicle. "Our gut reaction is that he was experimenting."

Box Office Faire Reflects Cultural Appetites?

Same old same old, but it's a question that must be asked over and over until...

From the Houston Chronicle:

Contractors Are Cited in Abuses at Guantanamo

From the Washington Post:

January 03, 2007

FBI reports that Gitmo Abuses No Myth

The FBI inquiry reveals the details of 26 incidents of abuse witnessed by FBI agents, including abuses that previously were thought to be mere rumor, including the use of naked female interrogators, tricking detainees into believing they were being defiled with menstrual blood.  

This has to be the nail in coffin for those who were holding out hope that reports of abuse at the Guantanamo Bay prison were overblown and isolated incidents.

Read the official report here:

The interesting thing about the release of the FBI's report is that it was completed in Sept 2004 but not released to the public until now as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request.  However, the FBI was quick to point out, the substance of many of these allegations has previously been reported elsewhere.  Those of you that have been keeping up with allegations of abuse at Gitmo will recall that FBI agents have indeed come forward several times over the past few years.  The importance of this report seems to be that we now have an official document from the FBI saying that they back the witness(es) of these abuses.  Previous allegations would be reported and then forgotten because they seemed to lack credibility and corroboration.

It will be interesting to see if this leads to the closure--once and for all--of Gitmo.

January 02, 2007

Refusing to Deploy Because the Iraq War is Illegal

The Court-Martial of Ehren Watada Begins


A pre-trial hearing is scheduled to take place Thursday in Tacoma, Washington, in the court-martial of Ehren Watada, the 28-year-old Army lieutenant who is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq on the basis that the war is illegal. Captain Dan Kuecker, the Army prosecutor based at Fort Lewis, Washington, has subpoenaed Truthout contributing reporter Sarah Olson and Gregg Kakesako, a Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter. Kuecker had also stated his intent to subpoena Truthout's executive director Marc Ash, assistant editor Sari Gelzer, and contributing reporter Dahr Jamail to appear at Watada's trial in February.