Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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I could not bring myself to read those plays, Annie. I mean, since I linked to SG, I scanned the title page and first page, and then specifically read right at the end to verify a quote I'd seen elsewhere, but that's it.

I used to spend a lot of time reading plays, a lot of time, and for some reason the dialogue from that art form tends to really stick in my mind, churn around in there. Frankly, the idea of lines from this particular play (there was only one when I saw the link) snaking its way through the old grey cells repelled me. Creeped me out, the concept of having this guy's words in my head.

Just finished up editing an article that's due, so I'm very late to bed. Absolutely NO offense to you, Annie, none, but I sorta wish I hadn't checked back here at just this very minute and been reminded of the play. Far, far, far better to have to gone to bed with visions and theories of the Rise And Fall Of Christian Democracy In Europe banging through my brain.


I wish you hadn't, too, for your sake.

I did not have any curiosity, any impulse to read anything of that play beyond its title. On the contrary. Besides, even in death, the less he gets of what he wanted to get by murder, the better. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I believe even someone that damaged and disturbed has a choice.

What haunts me is, in retrospect, the warning sirens were screaming from this kid for a long time. Why can't we learn to pay attention?


Amba, how are we supposed to determine when these things are warning signs and when it's just someone who runs outside the norm? Were his plays more disturbing than some of Thomas Harris's more disturbing work? What about the macabre imagination of Poe? Hell, people are getting rich now for creating disturbing works of ultra-violence. Frank Miller, the people behind the Hostel series, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, etc. And the second blockquote you have in this post made me think of Hunter S. Thompson.

Humans are highly variable, and there is no way we can screen them to figure out who's a threat and who isn't. Is the guy next door just an obnoxious neighbor, or is he the BTK killer? Is that ex-school board member just a pissed off guy who lost re-election, or is he going to blow up the Bath School? Is that guy who always argues with his teachers (when he's not sleeping in class) a heroin-addicted maniac about to snap, or is he just a really sleepy guy who's going to grow up to be an irritating blog commenter? How is it possible to tell the difference?

rick robotham dvm

Nikki Giovanni...........
the poet, a friend from the university we shared - Tuskegee Institute in Alabama - read her poem


......if you have a chance, please read it and realize why we are Virginia Tech


Icepick: Interesting that you should post your comment at about the time that I was wrapping up a conversation with the art teacher at my son's school. (I had to drop off materials and object at the art cottage for a project we're working on with the kids.) We talked about authors and filmmakers and artists whose works would be considered very disturbing indeed. Some of the people themselves were disturbing, even disturbed, though not Cho's type of disturbed. How, she pondered, could you pinpoint the distinction? For some, these are outlets for darkest thoughts and obsessions, yet, obviously, most don't act them out, much less become mass spree killers (or whatevers). You could see her eyes traveling around the cottage, at the art posted there, while talking about this. Now, this is an older woman--I'm guessing in her 60s--who has taught art for decades, privately, in studio settings, through galleries and workshops she's owned, to people of all ages, including adults and young adults. And she has also taught for many, many years in school settings, from kindergarten through high school.

How can you tell, for sure, she wondered, beforehand? How can you know when, exactly, to intervene--and soon enough to make a difference?

And so forth. We, too, discussed various authors and filmmakers, though not the same ones as Icepick references.

She did make an interesting comment about a bit of a change she's observed over the years (though in no way did she suggest anything at all causal). She's more of a visual than a verbal (not surprising), so she had a bit of trouble articulating it. But essentially she seemed to be saying that kids seem to see things more in animation these days, and in animation with a curious type of flatness to it. She said that even among the youngest, they seem more often to get really deeply occupied with characters, which they sometimes reproduce over and over again, and that they almost seem to be taking on those characters, even talking to or amongst themselves in those character roles. She was not being alarmist, nor drawing conclusions, just trying to pinpoint something.

It was disconcerting not just for the obvious reasons, but because she was looking at a display of pictures created by kids I know. (My son's didn't happen to be among them, but they could have been.)

I mean, who knows? Except that overwhelmingly, each and every person is highly, highly unlikely to turn out to be a Cho, no matter what they're writing, painting, drawing, filming and etc.

Now I'm getting increasingly inarticulate, and rambling. Time to to work!


Regretably, Ice nailed it: we simply do not know how to identify who are the walking time bombs vs. who are merely wierd but harmless. And if we try, in our current state of ignorance, all we can accomplish is to seriously curtail the freedom of all WITHOUT actually dealing with the people who are the problem.

Want something done about the issue? Get some serious work put into making psychology more of a solid science and less of the art form that it is now. Until that happens, I doubt that there is anything worthwhile that could be done.


I agree that students should not be screened as potentially violent. There was a report on CNN about research showing killers might be more likely to have a certain kind of brain damaage. The reporters said maybe in the future these things could be prevented, by giving everyone brain scans.

Of course, the CNN reporters weren't thinking about what they were saying. All of us have some kind of brain damage, all of us have psychological problems at times. Anyone could get caught in the trap of being labelled a potential mass murderer.

The English teachers who warned the authorities about Cho now look like prophets. But how many other strange kids never hurt a fly?

This incident will make life hard for strange loners in general.

Of course this guy was an extreme case, and it's hard to see how he survived four years of college without ever saying a word to anyone.

"Get some serious work put into making psychology more of a solid science and less of the art form that it is now."

That won't ever happen. We don't understand what we are, where we are, or why. How could psychologists ever figure out how to fix a broken human soul? They don't even know what it is. Many of them don't even believe there is such a thing.


I remember there was talk after Columbine about whether it was possible to identify which kids (or adults, for that matter) are dangerous and which are just fantasizing.

In retrospect, it seems as if this guy was all but yelling, "I'M GOING TO KILL SOMEBODY!!" It would be interesting to study and compare the actions and writings of those who actually went over the edge with some who didn't, and see if there is any pattern that distinguishes them. Persistent ideation about killing people, when it is expressed and detectable, does not seem like a normal variation. Of course you can't monitor people's internet usage and confiscate their private journals. But when they put it out there in a public form, for others to see, and someone becomes alerted and worried, then what?


In an AP, I think, article from today, his poetry workshop professor said something like she suggested counseling to him and even said she go with him, but he refused. What, then, indeed?

And in an NYT article that I just read, there are some other chilling details, including that that teacher, who agreed to give Cho individual classes so he wasn't in the general class, set up the code word of a dead professor to use to her assistant as way to transmit the need to call security.

Wow. Just wow.


Before they gave out the identity of the killer, I expected it would turn out to be a nice polite guy that no one suspected. That's how it often turns out with serial killers.

This time was different. But what could they do besides recommending counseling (and what good would that have done?) They can't arrest people for their creative writing projects.

And, as I said, in many cases there have been no warning signs at all. I do not think you can predict or prevent this kind of thing.

And besides, it hardly ever happens!! It's just that when it does happen, everyone wishes they could do something.

I did get the impression that the campus and state police were very lax. Maybe the best way to prevent this kind of massive tragedy is better police training. Two people had been murdered, no one had been caught, and the police did not alert the campus.

There should have been police in every single building immediately after that.

It took over 10 minutes, I think, for the police to arrive at the building, and it was too late. There is no excuse for that, is there?


I mean, students were calling on cell phones. How long could it take to drive across the campus? Certainly not 10 minutes!


There should have been police in every single building immediately after that.

There are over 100 buildings on the Va Tech campus. If police had manned all of them there likely wouldn't have been many left to actually search for the killer.

Also, why should the police have treated a murder on campus differently than they would a murder off campus? If a murder takes place in my mother's neighborhood, the police don't contact everyone in the area, and they don't evacuate the area either. (My mom lives in a bad neighborhood, and my sister and I can't get her to move, so this is not a hypothetical.) Lacking any evidence that this was the beginning of a spree, why should the police have done more than they did?

As for taking ten minutes to get across campus, I'd need to know more before offering an opinion. I doubt the police could get across campus at UF in ten minutes with sirens blairing.


There should have been police in every single building immediately after that.

Perhaps so. But note that there are more than 100 buildings on the 2,600-acre campus VA Tech campus.

I have not been able to find an up-to-date, exact number of police officers in the VA Tech police department on its website. As of 2004 figures, there were 39 sworn officers and 19 full-time support employees. Another source--one of those regional omnibus inffo sites--puts the up-to-date figure of sworn officers at 40

The Blacksburg Police Department, on its current webpage, lists 74 full-time and 8 part-time employees, but does not specify the number of sworn officers. The same omnibus site cited above puts the number of sworn officers at about 50.

So far, using 100% of sworn-duty cops employed in the immediate area--campus and town, we cannot yet get even 1 cop per building--and that's before taking into account any other issue, logistical or otherwise.


My intent is not to defend the police, but to learn more about the factual situation.


Ok, well, maybe the police can't be blamed. In that case, it could not have been prevented. No amount of counseling would have made that guy normal. Of course, it would have been worth trying. If he had been willing to go and try to change, and he wasn't.


Maybe there is something, police or otherwise. Just not sure which array of things, and they're not likely to be the most surefire or efficient, because surefire involves too many trade-offs or are impractical for freak sort of situations, which is why this is all so frustrating.


Also, maybe we can blame the police for something(s)--we have to figure out which things they can be blamed for, though.


Sorry for the bit of repetition and the cross-post with Icepick's--from the time I started my comment, which was before 'Pick's went up, it took me a little bit of time to find the the appropriate statistics to put here (and, for context, to check out info on other departments, Richmond's, for example, and my own small city).

Time flies.


RIA, I just didn't feel like looking up the numbers of officers in the various districts. One would also need to look up the amound of Sheriff's deputies in the county as well as any state patrol officers that may have been in the area.

The problem is that the police couldn't have possibly known what was coming. The killer actually didn't have ANY relationship with the initial two victims, it seems now. But how could the police have known that at the time?

The real issue, as you state, is that there is no way to protect against every conceivable eventuality. The police and the campus administration may have made mistakes, but I just don't think anything has been pointed out yet that sounds truly egregious. Perhaps they did, but I just don't think we have the evidence to make that assumption yet.

It sounds like various professors and the campus police had identified Cho as having had behavioral issues in the past. It also appears that they persued the matters as far as they legally could at the time.

The long and the short of it is that if we're going to live in a free society, then people with evil intent will be free to commit horrendous acts of malice. We can try to mitigate it, but it is impossible to stop it.


How about this: HIs English teachers knew he had psychological problems because of his creative writing, and they notified the school and police. Yet Cho had no trouble buying guns. That is where prevention could have happened.

Yes, I realize he could have bought them illegally if he really wanted to. But it did not have to be so easy for a psychologically disturbed college student to buy guns. And the school did not allow guns on campus, I heard, so why did the gun store sell to one of the students without checking him out?

Maybe put some of the responsibiliy on gun sellers. A bartender is legally responsible if he lets a drunk continue drinking who then drives and causes an accident. A gun seller could require references from a customer's employer, family, school, etc.

This kid would never have been able to get legitimate references.


Okay, Real, I'll buy some of that. All you have to do now is get Congress to over-turn HIPAA and also make state level HIPAA-type legislation illegal. It should take five to ten years for that to work its way through the court system. You're also going to have to get SCOTUS to completely over-turn the idea of a constitutional right to privacy as well.

Also, my understanding is that the school had a zero tolerance policy against students having a gun on campus, but that it wasn't actually illegal to have a gun on campus. That's an extra-legal practice, and I don't see how private businesses can be held accountable for such extra-legal practices by other entities.

It would probably be easier to lower the legal threshold for having people committed to mental institutions.


I think RealPC's headed in the right direction though--to the extent that anything can really be done, it sure would be better to do it before a crisis occurs (which even a double-murder in a dorm room is).

And I also think Icepick points to an issue as well, that of dealing with people with signs of violent disturbance (I'm trying to pick my words carefully).

Boy, do I ever understand some of the history and background that makes this a real hot-button, with lots of implications to work through. This wouldn't be an easy one, and it would be very controversial. But it's perhaps overdue that we not consider that perhaps the pendulum, which so badly needed to be swung just a few decades ago, has not swung too far.


Okay, I have to retract a large part of my last comment. People can voluntarily sign off on foregoing their privacy rights, so HIPAA and the right to privacy don't ned to be over-turned for Real's idea. I'm not sure what if any Second Amendment issues there might be raised by uping the requirements on gun ownership, though.


My biggest problems with what I've been reading around the web (well, the second and third biggest) are (1) the assumption that the authorities could have been able to stop this but failed to act through incompetence or (2) the authorities SHOULD be able to prevent this. I just don't think that (1) has been established in fact, and perhaps never will be, or that (2) is possible. People are inventive, and whateveer action is taken to stop anything simply lead to the creation of other means for accomplishing whatever.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't take precautions. But the legislation and policies that get implemented after heinous acts like this tend to be rather unhelpful. I remember that after Columbine several gun control laws were passed to stop future Columbines. The fact that the killers had already violated the existing gun control laws didn't seem to make anyone pause to consider if voting to re-bell the cat was useful or not.


I agree you can't prevent these things. We're just lucky they seldom happen.

However, I think gun owners should be licensed, just like car owners. They should have to pass tests for skill and for psychological health.

I don't know about the idea of having dangerous people committed. That opens the door for imprisonment by the government or by family members. On the other hand, yes we do have psychotic people roaming around aimlessly, because the pendulum has swung too far.

I don't think they should have locked Cho up in a mental hospital based on his asocial behavior. Asocial people have a hard enough time as it is, and almost none of them are violent. In the wake of this shooting, every shy kid will be under suspicion, making their existence even more agonizing.

However I did read the beginning of that play amba linked to, and if I were his teacher I might have tried to get him locked up. But you can't, and it wouldn't be fair anyway. What about all the kids (and adults) who love violent games and movies, and have violent fantasies, but would never hurt anyone?

So I think passing tests before buying a gun might help. Or maybe not. Maybe a smart sociopath could figure out the socially acceptable answers on a personality test.


Okay, I just heard something very interesting. Apparently in 2005 when Cho was sent before a judge for the problems he had then, the judge made the pschiatric counseling voluntary. If the judge had made that mandatory (which was in his power) that would have shown up on Cho's background check and he would NOT have been able to purchase firearms. [I just heard this on Fox News. Until someone can verify this elsewhere I wouldn't take it as gospel.] So now we are getting evidence of a true breakdown in the system.


Real, we were cross posting this time. I think the new stuff I'm hearing definitely lends credence to your points.


I agree. Maybe if that judge had been more aware, the tragedy might have been avoided.


For the record, I did not know about of the reports from ABC or otherwise about the previous committment of Cho, nor about NBC receiving a package, when I wrote the earlier comments. I didn't find out about those until I got home from a worksite. I followed a comment thread or two intermittently this afternoon while uploading stuff to a client-related website, and other stuff. (The past two days I was working from home, where I have television audio going the background, if I choose.)

I don't know if 'Pick did knew that stuff either, when he posted his comment about committment.

But boy, it sure does seem timely, now. And "hot-button" or no, to which term I referred in a comment responding to his, it's clearly time to consider looking at this process, given what we're hearing now, assuming that at least a substantial portion of what we're hearing has substance.


I got home less than 1/2 hour ago, son in tow.


I knew about the ABC News story on his previous commitment. I also knew more about the professor's stories about his writings. I knew NBC had received a package, but didn't know what it contained until about 6:45 eastern. My concerns remain the same: namely that there's a rush to judgement on what actions need to be taken now, both punative against anyone for 'dereliction of duty' or potential legal or policy remidies to prevent this from happening again.

For example, since the day of the shooting people have been coming down hard on the police and the Va Tech administration. As of this evening it appears to me that the most likely breakdown occured in the judicial process.

If the reports I have heard and read are accurate, the machinery to try and stop this kind of thing is already in place. But ultimiately someone somewhere is going to have to make a judgement call, and people will make mistakes.

I don't think anything we can do will stop those mistakes from happening, and I really don't like the idea of mandatory decisions being handed down in cases like this. It's too much like mandatory sentencing guidelines, which I think have done more harm than good.


I agree with the suggestion you advance in your final paragraph. However, butting heads with that is a comment I heard from one of the many commentators I've heard in the past couple of days. Something tells me it was Keith Olbermann, but that may be wrong. It went something like this:

We can prepare for acts of terrorism, war, and other organized attacks. But as long as we enjoy the rights and freedoms we now have, there is no way to prepare for or prevent atrocious acts by one sick individual acting alone.

To that I add: Even if we could somehow identify them in advance, our rule of law prevents preemptive intervention until laws are broken. In a sense, this is one of the very tragic and very steep costs of freedom.


I say this with sardonic sorrow:

Then could you say all those innocent kids died for our way of life?


By the way: between preparing for my parents' visit and working on copyediting, I haven't had time to read either news stories or blog posts on this story, except at about 2 A.M. last night. Maybe again tonight.


amba, it may be too early and maybe I just need another cup of coffee, but I'm having difficulty understanding exactly what you meant in your "sardonic sorrow" comment. Certainly I did not have any forethought that the victims died for our way of life. My thought process on the entire matter has been so saddened and so reviled that it has not yet included such heady tack.

My purpose was simply to relay a commentator's thought that had stuck in my head and was called up as I read and agreed with your conclusion.

Removing ourselves as best we can and trying to become philosophically practical (now there's a word duo I've never used before), in a society with the freedoms we enjoy, there probably is no way to predict and prevent such horrific tragedies from happening again. Examined without jaundice, there is an interpretation that recognizes the threats, the potential tyranny, the possibilites of failure, that come with the guarantees of freedom. The founders correctly believed that the risks of being free were greatly overshadowed by the advantages of that freedom.

In the immediate umbra of such events, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the emotional upheaval of the moment. This is when we scream out "Why doesn't somebody do something?", "How can this happen in America?" Perhaps part of the answer is that it happens, or can happen, in part because this is America. But, no, I would never say that these kids died for our way of life. They died because a very sick, deranged, angry young man had the freedom to plan, plot, scheme, equip himself, and carry out his bitter vendetta.

I don't know if I have made things better or worse with these explanatory remarks. Pardon my long-windedness this morning.



I certainly didn't intend any criticism or even sarcasm. My dad is here, and he is very much opposed to the Iraq war, and feels that Pres. Bush has needlessly wasted a lot more young lives than this twisted killer. While I don't agree with him that a possible solution is just to get out, I was thinking about how senseless this must seem to the parents of Cho's (apparently) random victims, and thinking about the whole issue of "what we are (or aren't) asked to sacrifice for our way of life."

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." — Benjamin Franklin


This story on CNN confirms what I heard last night, for the most part. It turns out that all the machinery to prevent this kind of thing is already in place.

A Virginia judge in December 2005 deemed Cho "an imminent danger to himself because of mental illness" and ordered outpatient treatment for him, according to court documents. (Watch campus shooting rekindle debate on gun control )

Special Justice Paul M. Barnett, who filled out the certification and order for involuntary admission to a mental health facility, checked the box that said: "The alternatives to involuntary hospitalization and treatment were investigated and deemed suitable."

"Only if I order them into a hospital is there any effect on their gun rights," Barnett told CNN on Wednesday. (Read the judge's order - PDF)

Virginia and federal law prohibit the sale of guns to anyone who has been sent unwillingly to a mental institution.


Rather, all the machinery to have prevented this particular case is in place. Cho could have gotten firearms in some other way, but given what we've heard of him I really can't imagine him being able to make the human contacts necessary to purchase guns illegally.


They showed some of Cho's videos on CNN this morning. To me, it's obviously a case of demonic possession. Of course, our mental health professionals are too modern and enlghtened to believe in that.

If ever our society awakens from its materialist trance, and recognizes the real cause of certain forms of mental illness, these disasters will sometimes be preventable.

I believe that schizophrenia is often caused by an inability to filter out other-worldly information. It can have various kinds of causes. As a result, schizophrenics are confused and lost between worlds. In primitive cultures they were trained as shamans, but we just abandon them and give them useless drugs.

I think Cho was a paranoid schizophrenic, and was being tormented by evil entities, who were torturing and deceiving him. From his perspective he, and imaginary others, were being horribly persecuted, and the only heroic choice was to fight back.

Now, that's why most psychotherapy is useless in cases like this. I recommend People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck, for example. He is one of the very few psychiatrists who believes in demonic possession.

Cho needed exorcism, not talk therapy or drugs.

Yes, I know, most of you strongly disagree with me. But at least read Scott's book, and give it a little thought.

I am not saying all schizophrenics are possessed by demons. However, they all experience communication from non-physical entities (auditory hallucinations). I'm sure Cho experienced hallucinations, as well as delusions of persecution. And that he was, literally, possessed by malicious non-physical entities.


I am a person who believes in demonic possession (I think it is for example the best explanation for the alien abductions). However, the Church's top exorcist emphasizes the need to distinguish schizophrenia, which is a mental illlness, from demonic possession. I have no opinion as to what Cho's problem was.


RealPC - My husband works at a group home for people suffering from severe schizophrenia. I am very skeptical of the Pharmaceutical industry in general, but I respectfully and very strongly disagree that the modern medications available for these conditions are useless. Individuals who twenty years ago would have lived out their entire lives in straight jackets behind locked and guarded doors are now able to converse, go shopping, hold part-time jobs, cook, clean and take care of themselves with minimal supervision. I will not argue that they aren't privy to contact with another reality - I don't think that's something anyone can know. But saying that drugs are useless is simply not true.


Hey Dan, I just got around to reading the KKK smear you made against me last weekend. Nice work, you self-righteous ass.



Yes the drugs are useful for keeping them tranquilized, and they would need straight jackets otherwise. I agree. But that is not a cure.


i am not saying I know a cure for schizophrenia. Most of them are, I think, talented individuals who would be trained and respected as shamans in traditional societies.

Cho is another story because he suffered from demonic possession and might have been helped by exorcism.


Icepick, here's a cartoon you might enjoy:

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