16 December 2007


Back two lives ago, when I was living in New Jersey and teaching at Glassboro State College, I met a young man named Kyle Cassidy. I can recall first noticing him in the Academic Computing Office - he had long blonde hair streaked with purple dye. I soon discovered that he was not only one of the more exotic looking people in sleepy Glassboro, he was also one of the most interesting and charismatic. I can't remember exactly what his real major was - English, maybe - but he hung around playing with computers, learning and teaching in equal measure. He was the first person to show me what a MUD - Multi-User Dungeon - was like, and the first I knew to meet people from around the world via the (pre-WWW) internet.

I managed to talk him into taking my "Computers and Society" class, shared a number of bean-and-cheese burritos with him at the local Taco Bell, and took a couple of short road trips with him. He created a memorable online article about a trip we made to Gettysburg. The online format for the article, while it looks commonplace now, was quite innovative in 1998 and seemed rather amazing to me. I was always impressed by Kyle's writing, photography, and videography, which always had a spark to it that was beyond the ordinary. I also had the privilege of attending his wedding, an amazing happening at a hippie house in the South Jersey woods. At least, I think it was a wedding although I've never been certain - it was definitely a work of performance art.

By the time I left Glassboro New Jersey in 2000, Glassboro State College had become Rowan University, and I had somehow abandoned my role as a professor of computer science to become a college administrator. I'm not sure which was more unlikely but obviously the latter made a bigger impact on me. Kyle had already moved on to work as a systems administrator at the University of Pennsylvania, ultimately serving in a dual role as sysadmin and house photographer for the Annenberg School at Penn. Every now and then I would exchange an email with him or take a look at his web site.

And now, seven years later, he has published a book of photography that's received wide attention both as a work of art and a work of popular anthropology. Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes, has received rave reviews in publications from The Washington Post to Guns and Ammo. It's great to see such a talent receive the attention he deserves. I'm so happy about this and can't wait for my copy to arrive from Amazon.

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