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Sunday, May 30, 2004

Cosby Remarks on Blacks Draw Fire, Support
By DEEPTI HAJELA, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK - Remarks Bill Cosby made earlier this month upbraiding certain segments of the black community on issues from their grammar to complaints about police brutality have been attacked by some as a classist, elitist attack on the poor.

Others say the entertainer revealed unpleasant truths that need to be dealt with.

Speaking at a commemoration of the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision, Cosby, a longtime education advocate, cited elevated school dropout rates for inner-city black students and criticized low-income blacks for not using the opportunities the civil rights movement won for them.

"These people marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around," Cosby said at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund observance.

"I can't even talk the way these people talk, 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' ... and I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk," Cosby said, according to published reports. "And then I heard the father talk ... Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth."

He also turned his attention to the population of black prison inmates, saying "These people are not political prisoners. ... People getting shot in the head over a piece of poundcake. ... We're outraged (saying) 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the poundcake in his hand?"

Among blacks, reaction has been a mixed bag of praise and criticism for the entertainer.

"I think he could have said a lot of the same things in a constructive manner instead of coming down hard on people who don't have the same podium to defend themselves," said Jimi Izrael, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a columnist for

But the Rev. Conrad Tillard of the Eliot Church of Roxbury, Mass., said Cosby "could absolutely have" gone even further. "What's so true about what he said is slavery and the pathology of Jim Crow have absolutely hurt us, but at the end of the day, we have got to turn the tide."

Tillard said some of the concern over Cosby's remarks was that others would use them to criticize blacks instead of admitting that discrimination still exists.

There is a fear, Tillard said, "that people who are racist ... will seize upon that and try to castigate the African-American community. The conservatives and liberals are far too quick to seize upon a statement and say to the rest of us, 'See, see, it's not us, it's you.' What they have not wanted to acknowledge is that there are still legacies of slavery."

Others said they were concerned not with the topic of Cosby's remarks but with his tone.

"If he was going to make such a strong point, he should have chosen his words very carefully," said Wendy Williams, host of the afternoon show on WBLS-FM in New York City. She said callers to her show were split fairly evenly in their opinions on Cosby's comments.

Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons also questioned Cosby's tone. "Judgment of the people in the situation is not helpful. How can you help them is the question," he said.

Izrael said he was appalled by Cosby's remarks about prisoners and police.

"That's irresponsible," he said. "In this day and age he ought not be giving license to anyone to shoot our kids in the street for petty crime. It negates everything he had to say. He's coming from this really classist perspective."

In a statement issued the weekend after his remarks, Cosby said his comments were intended to be a call to action.

"I feel that I can no longer remain silent. If I have to make a choice between keeping quiet so that conservative media does not speak negatively or ringing the bell to galvanize those who want change in the lower economic community, then I choose to be a bell ringer," he said.

The Associated Press sought additional comment from Cosby through his spokesman, but he declined to comment.

Renee Jones, mother of three and grandmother of three, approved of Cosby speaking out.

"If there's a problem, it needs to be addressed," said Jones, 51, while waiting for a friend in Harlem. "He was right on for making people understand and see this is a problem."

But Otis Parker, 67, thought the need was for action, not talk. He questioned whether the speech patterns of black youth were really the concern.

"I was raised to say, 'Yes, Ma'am,' that didn't stop me from going to penitentiary," the retired building superintendent said. He turned his life around after a prison term for armed robbery.

Parker acknowledged that there are those who don't make good choices, but said criticizing instead of reaching out to encourage and help them isn't the way to go.

"You've got to help them all," he said. "You've got to step in."

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Ruthless Reading

You've got to keep up in your field but who's got the time for all that reading? You, that's who, using these tips for ruthless reading:

Read differently for business. With books and reports, spend time initially on the table of contents and index. Read for names, subject areas, themes and conclusions, problems and solutions. Look up topics that catch your eye.
· Once you understand the organization, flip through from back to front, pausing to read charts and graphs. What are the main arguments and supporting evidence?

· Google the book and author; skim reviews to get a critical analysis.

· Get coffee at a bookshop and spend time browsing the shelves, noting topics that are hot or prevalent.

· Check out buzz words and phrases at This tool quotes snippets from articles and sites using the term, giving you a sense of context.

· Carry magazines in your car for when you're stuck in traffic or waiting for appointments. Tear out articles you want to read and toss the magazine.

Friday, May 21, 2004

‘Super Size Me’ director is on a mission
He wants to show the world what fast food can do to your body

To produce "Super Size Me," Morgan Spurlock's riveting and often revolting
indictment of American eating habits and the fast food industry, he consumed
nothing but McDonald's food and drink for 30 days.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Morgan Spurlock set out to make a movie. He ended up a crusader. And all it took was 5,000 calories a day.

To produce “Super Size Me,” his riveting and often revolting indictment of American eating habits and the fast food industry, Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s food and drink for 30 days. He says he consumed 30 pounds of sugar and 12 pounds of fat.

Monitored by three doctors, the filmmaker ate three meals a day, tried everything on the menu at least once, accepted super-size portions when offered and refused anything he couldn’t buy at the restaurant.

The result: He ballooned by 25 pounds and got sick.

A funny, scary idea
At the beginning, it sounded funny, Spurlock says. Stuffed from a Thanksgiving dinner in 2002, he saw a news report about two teenagers suing McDonald’s for allegedly causing their weight gain and health problems.

What would happen, he wondered, if he ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month?

A great film, he figured. And critics say it is: The 98-minute documentary won a best directing prize at the Sundance Film Festival and opens nationwide Friday.

With deadpan delivery, animation and graphics, and a way of making common sights like a Big Gulp container seem shocking, Spurlock is able to keep the film lighthearted even as he argues fast food may be why the number of obese Americans has doubled since 1980.

Some moments trigger both gasps and chuckles, like when a group of children studying photographs can identify Ronald McDonald — but not Jesus.

“I don’t like to be told what to do or preached to,” Spurlock says. “I wanted it to be entertaining and leave it up to you to decide what to do.”

Becoming a believer
But in discussing his film and his mission to help Americans eat better, Spurlock is intense and on message, as determined as a politician seeking office. Enthusiastic about his new-found pulpit, he tends to dominate conversation with rapid-fire, statistic-filled answers.

“When you make a movie that affects people the way this film does, you have an obligation to get the message out, to lead this dialogue and lead this discussion beyond the film,” he explains. “I’m a believer now.”

Spurlock returned to his native West Virginia last week for special screenings with health educators in Wheeling and Morgantown, and at a film festival in Charleston. At 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he’s back to the long and lean shape he was in before his experiment.

West Virginia, however, has become the nation’s second-fattest state behind Mississippi with 24.6 percent of the population considered obese. The state agency that insures public employees invited Spurlock to help bolster its multimedia portion-control campaign.

“This is a very frightening film for the food industry because it’s a film that shows that eating their food on a very heavy basis is dangerous,” says the 33-year-old from Beckley, who grew up on mom’s home cooking and whose girlfriend is a vegan chef. “A lot of Americans are on a path to being very sick.

“There’s no thought about what we’re eating and what’s going to happen to our bodies next week, next month, next year,” he says. “The last thing they want you to do is think about what you’re eating because they’re making millions by you not.”
McDonald's reacts
‘...watching [Spurlock] force-feed himself to the point of vomiting and getting a rectal exam is not how I prefer to spend my free time.’

— Cathy Kapica
McDonald’s global nutrition director

Since Spurlock finished his film, McDonald’s has begun eliminating super-sizing and is rolling out healthier choices. On May 11, it begins offering adult Happy Meals with salad, bottled water and pedometers.

Company spokesman Walt Riker has said the changes have nothing to do with the film, which he calls “a super-sized distortion of the quality, choice and variety available at McDonald’s.”

The film is not about McDonald’s, Riker says, but about Spurlock’s decision to act irresponsibly by eating 5,000 calories a day — “a gimmick to make a film.” U.S. health officials recommend 2,200 calories a day for most men.

Adds Cathy Kapica, McDonald’s global nutrition director: “I don’t want to judge what people consider to be entertainment, but watching him force-feed himself to the point of vomiting and getting a rectal exam is not how I prefer to spend my free time.”

Spurlock, a nonsmoker and nondrinker who works out regularly, acknowledges his diet may have been extreme but believes it’s comparable to many Americans’ eating habits.

“As much as they can say this is unrealistic, this food is rooted in the reality of how we live our lives,” he says.

Dangerous diet
At the start of his 30-day binge, doctors use words like “superb,” “perfect” and “outstanding” to describe Spurlock’s blood and cholesterol levels and his overall health. He has 11 percent body fat and is declared above average in fitness.

He stops exercising because most Americans don’t. His muscle turns to mush, and his body fat soars to 18 percent.

Before long, the doctors call his condition “obscene” and “outrageous,” comparing the liver damage that Spurlock has begun to suffer to that of an alcoholic. One cites the onset of a benign liver condition called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. It is usually seen in obese people.

It took Spurlock 14 months to get back to his original weight, and his liver is now normal.

“When you go to the doctor, what you eat is one of the last questions asked,” he says. “The impact of food on your body, your well being, is so immense. But there’s no money in people eating broccoli. There’s money in people eating pills.”

Spurlock will spend the summer promoting his movie, then take his message to high schools and colleges. In all, he’ll be devoting another year of his life to the cause.

“I look at my film as a snapshot of your life. This 30 days is what could happen to you in 20, 30, 40 years if you continue to eat the way most Americans eat,” he says. “You can develop all these health problems ... that can be stopped right now if you change the way you eat and start exercising.”

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bible Proofreaders Sweat the Small Stuff
Wed May 19, 7:41 PM ET
By LOUISE CHU, Associated Press Writer

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. - Thank the Lord — and the proofreaders at Peachtree Editorial and Proofreading — that the Bible refers to "our ancestors" instead of "sour ancestors," and calls for an end to "factions" — not "fractions." The proofreading service caught those typos and others before the latest edition of the Holy Book went to press.

At Peachtree, attention to detail is more than a job description. It's a calling.

"Bible readers are less forgiving of errors because they expect perfection in the Bible text," said June Gunden, who founded the business along with her husband, Doug.

Peachtree Editorial and Proofreading Service is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation — and one of only a few in the world — to specialize in proofreading Bibles.

"As many words as there are in the Bible, you can imagine all the kinds of things that could go wrong," said David R. Shepherd, publisher of the Holman Christian Standard Bible. "It would be devastating to have a typo in the wrong place or a word left out."

A list hangs in the Gundens' office as a reminder of just how much rides on their work. The list, a collection of notorious typos found in the Bible, features one prominent error from a 1631 King James edition: "Thou shalt commit adultery."

"Obviously, you try to make sure anything that says, `You shall not,' you make sure you have the `not,'" Doug Gunden said.

While such long-ago errors are good for a chuckle, the Gundens, who have been in the proofreading business for more than 25 years, realize that proofreading a Bible is serious stuff.

With an ordinary book, "you can put up with more because it's not something you're basing your whole life on," June Gunden said. "It's information, but it's not really life-changing information. It's not something you believe to be infallible."

The best-selling book of all time has reached even greater heights in recent years, with Bible sales accounting for almost $140 million last year, an 8 percent increase over 2002, according to the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, which tracks sales at Christian stores.

Publishers have been producing new, annotated editions with study notes and graphics — all of which require the Gundens' services.

"In the last three months, we've had more calls for new Bibles that people want us to get on our schedule than I can remember," June Gunden said.

Wall-to-wall bookshelves at the Peachtree office display the hundreds of Bibles that have passed under the eyes of the 17-person staff.

The staff recently finished one of its largest projects, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the latest of only a dozen English translations produced since the 15th century. The 20-year, $10 million project employed about 100 biblical scholars, linguists and editors to translate the Bible from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic into modern English.

For the last two years, the project was in the hands of the Peachtree staff, which combed each page repeatedly, looking for such things as typos and punctuation errors.

Peachtree's employees incorporate their faith into their work, starting each project with a prayer.

"If you work on these projects and you don't have an appreciation for this gift that God has given us — his word — it's a little more difficult for you to recognize the magnitude of the project," Doug Gunden said.

* Some Notorious Typos Found in the Bible

Dog Survives Five Weeks in Desert Hole
Wed May 19, 7:58 PM ET

TEMECULA, Calif. - A family who left their dog for dead after a desert hiking accident five weeks ago has been reunited with the pooch after a Riverside County hiker and his brother heard it barking and pulled it from a 30-foot-deep pit.

Stephen Schwartz, 17, was hiking with his brother, father and two cousins on April 18 near the ghost town of Panamint City on the western edge of Death Valley National Park when their dog, Shadow, fell into the pit.

The Schwartzs heard 10-year-old Shadow whimpering and tried to use an aluminum ladder from a nearby ranger station to reach the dog. But the ladder fell out of reach and eventually, Shadow stopped responding to their calls.

Thinking the dog was dead, the Schwartzs placed an improvised wooden cross over the pit, said a prayer and returned home to Trona, a tiny town in far northern San Bernardino County.

But Shadow was very much alive, surviving on water at the bottom of the hole.

On Sunday, Temecula resident Scott Mertz and his brother, Darren Mertz, of Ridgecrest, were searching for the source of a spring near Panamint City.

They stumbled on a deep, 4-foot-wide pit with a ladder inside and a strange cross-like design over it. Stopping to rest, the brothers tossed rocks into the pit and dared each other to climb inside. Then they heard barking.

"We looked at each other and my brother said, 'Is that coming from the hole?'" Scott Mertz, 36, said. "We were just horrified that there was a dog down there."

His brother, Darren, said: "We weren't going to leave without the dog."

Using an old hose from a nearby water storage tank, Darren, 34, lowered his brother into the hole until he could reach the ladder and climb down to the dog. Scott managed to grab a frightened and skinny Shadow and his brother hauled them back up.

The Mertz brothers called the number on Shadow's tags and told the Schwartzs their beloved pet had been found 35 days after they left it for dead.

"This tops the list — I never felt so happy before," Stephen Schwartz said Tuesday. "I prayed that I would see her again and it happened."

The cocker spaniel-beagle mix appears to be in good health despite losing 5 pounds, he said.

"Last night, she came up to me and started begging for food like she always did," Schwartz said.

Airline to give free tickets for being nice
Wednesday, May 19, 2004 Posted: 4:24 PM EDT (2024 GMT)

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- Airlines have offered more legroom, televisions and even martinis on flights to draw customers in a highly competitive market. In the latest unusual effort, Delta's low-fare carrier, Song, will give free tickets to passengers who are nice to one another.

Help another passenger carry a bag, stay upbeat during a difficult situation or assist a flight attendant and you could earn one of 5,000 roundtrip tickets Song will give away in June for redemption between September and November.

Song hopes the program will build customer loyalty and generate more revenue for Delta Air Lines, which has lost more than $3 billion in three years and recently warned about the possibility of bankruptcy.

"We always give away products when people have a problem," Song chief executive John Selvaggio said in an interview. "I'd love to see what happens when you give away a ticket for somebody doing something good."

With profits hard to come by for the major airlines since the 2001 terrorist attacks and several having to raise ticket prices recently because of high fuel costs, some have been trying a few tricks to attract customers.

AMR Corp., the parent of American Airlines, said recently that it would keep its expanded legroom instead of adding more seats in many of its jets and will provide more passengers power ports to plug in their entertainment devices.

In January, New York-based JetBlue Airways, which has TVs in every seatback, said it would enhance its in-flight entertainment with about 100 channels of free digital satellite radio and two pay-per-view movie channels. Song has martini bars on its flights and Atlanta-based Delta has experimented with premium food for sale and is having fashion designer Richard Tyler update employee uniforms.

In the latest Song promotion, each flight attendant will get four tickets to give away to passengers at his or her discretion. The tickets will be good for travel between September 7 and November 10 in any of the 12 cities Song flies.

Song would not say how much the initiative will cost, though it noted that the seats being given away are only a small fraction of the 1 million a month it has available and the fall period is usually a slow time in the airline industry. A marketing tour to promote the program begins Thursday in Boston.

As he got off a Song flight Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, John Murphy, a 34-year-old financial consultant from New York, said he was intrigued by the promotion. "Perhaps it will put people in a better mood on airplanes," said Murphy, who was traveling Song for the first time.

Some analysts, however, are skeptical of Song's plan.

Ray Neidl, an airline analyst with Blaylock & Partners in New York, said he doesn't believe the promotion will generate much new business for Song or Delta.

"Next thing you know, they'll be paying you to fly," Neidl said. "I just hope there are not that many people that are nice. Yields are bad enough already."

Friday, May 07, 2004

Alley Cats
Nat Nast Luxury Originals takes the traditional bowling shirt to a new level.

By Susan Soriano

"My sister, Barbara, and I constantly ask each other, Would Dad have done this?" says Patty Nast Canton of Nat Nast Luxury Originals, a four-year-old men's clothing collection she runs with her sister, Barbara Nast Saletan. For some, their high-end sportswear—which runs the gamut from silk jacquard or laundered linen short-sleeve shirts to the four-button, pima cotton knit polos favored by golfers with style—is a must-have. (In a recent episode of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David and Ted Danson got into a tug of war over a Nat Nast shirt.)

The line's source of inspiration: bowling shirts. Yes, bowling shirts.

Barbara's and Patty's dad, the real-life Nat Nast, was a dapper, sharp businessman during the post-World War II boom years. In 1946, he founded his company in Kansas City, Mo., and though he'd never set foot in a bowling alley he zeroed in on bowlers as his target market, creating one of the most popular brands around. It made sense: There were 12 million bowlers in the United States in the '40s, and nearly double that number in the '50s. Nat's "action-back" shirt, which consisted of a large, inverted pleat on each side of the shirtback, allowed the wearer to hurl a bowling bowl down an alley with power and ease.

When Nat sold the business in the early '70s, the clothing line and brand name disappeared. For a while.

Though Patty and Barbara had been close to their father, they'd never been involved in his work. ("We spent one summer working in the shipping department," Barbara says.) But as they raised their children and ran the courses of their respective careers—Barbara as a business executive for Calvin Klein, Patty as an interior designer and Realtor—they gained an appreciation for it. After Nat's death at 69 in 1986, they scoured eBay and vintage shops to establish an archive of the clothing that bore his name. They discovered how much the shirts were coveted: by friends who saw Danny, Patty's husband, wearing some of the vintage originals, and by others, on the Web (one Nat Nast original on eBay, with original tags attached, was spotted for $800).

The sisters toyed with the idea of creating promotional shirts for a hip, urban audience. "But we had to admit that everything that our dad stood for was really what we wanted to go after," says Patty. "Luxury, elegance, fine tailoring—that's what Nat Nast is all about."

The first "collection," launched in December 2000, was minimal: a few silk shirts, some trousers, a couple of jackets (for starters, 30 accounts). Their first-year fantasy? A spot in the Neiman Marcus catalog, a few pieces in Los Angeles' Fred Segal department store, and a faint hope that actor Matthew Perry of Friends might be seen wearing the shirts. To their amazement, they got all three.

Four years later, Nat Nast Luxury Originals (—now a full collection of vintage-inspired daywear, beachwear, and outerwear for men—hasn't lost any of its momentum. It's sold in 450 stores nationwide, from shops at golf resorts to major department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale's. The embroidered and color-blocked shirts sell for $95 to $200.

Why has Nat Nast struck a chord with so many people? "Our business has always been emotional. People send us faded photographs of their own dads in Nat Nast shirts. The collection evokes an image of a more innocent, quieter time," says Barbara, adding that sales rose after Sept.11.

For a new generation hooked on this subtly sensational line, it probably feels like home.

Man recovering after nails driven into skull
Full recovery seen after nail gun accident

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A construction worker had six nails driven into his head in an accident with a high-powered nail gun, but doctors said Wednesday they expect him to make a full recovery.

Isidro Mejia made his first public appearance Wednesday since the April 19 accident that left him with 3½-inch nails embedded in his face, neck and skull. He told reporters in Spanish from his wheelchair that he does not remember much about the accident, but is grateful to be alive.

"He says that he's very happy to be alive," said Dr. Rafael Quinonez, a neurosurgeon who removed the nails at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. "And he told me this morning that he thought he was going to die. He was happy when he opened his eyes and he saw that he's still with us."

Mejia, 39, was atop an unfinished home when he fell from the roof onto a co-worker who was using the nail gun, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Mark Newlands said.

The two men tried to grab each to keep from falling, but both tumbled to the ground. At some point, the nail gun discharged and drove the nails into Mejia's head.

"They're extremely powerful," Newlands said. "They've got to drive through three-quarter-inch plywood."

Quinonez said Mejia told authorities he remembered a "shock" to the back of his neck and little else before passing out.

Three nails penetrated Mejia's brain, and one entered his spine below the base of his skull. Doctors said the nails barely missed his brain stem and spinal cord, preventing paralysis or death.

"We did not have too much hope that he would survive, but we did it and he survived," Quinonez said, calling the recovery "close to a miracle."

Mejia is walking with minimal assistance and speaks somewhat slowly because his brain’s speech center was affected, but his progress has been "remarkable," Quinonez said. With rehabilitation therapy, he should fully recover, he said.

"He is basically normal," Quinonez said.

Five nails were removed the same day and the sixth, in Mejia's face, was removed April 23 after swelling went down, the hospital said.

Authorities cleared the co-worker of any wrongdoing.

A great soap opera masquerading as a great sitcom.

By Chris Suellentrop

TV writers are hyping the Friends finale as the last gasp of television's last great situation comedy. To cite only the most literal example, the cover of Entertainment Weekly lumped Friends with the finales of Sex and the City and Frasier to ask, "Are Sitcoms Dead?" In today's fragmented TV universe, the theory goes, no single sitcom will again be able to garner an audience large enough for its finale to prompt an outburst of nationwide mourning. Highbrow sitcoms—the BBC's The Office, HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bravo's Significant Others—may live on as niche shows that appeal to the egghead crowd, but the TV masses have shown their preference for forensic crime dramas and reality television. Where have you gone, Mrs. Huxtable?

There are flaws in the sitcoms-are-dead hypothesis, beyond the fact that it's the kind of story that gets published every time a major sitcom goes off the air. For one, if greatness requires that a show be loved by the bulk of the TV-viewing audience, Friends fails the test. Most writers vastly overestimate the size of the Friends audience. (Sitcom declinists make no claims about the quality or critical reception of Friends, only its popularity.) Sure, it's been a Top 10 show from its inception, and it was the most-watched show on television as recently as the 2001-2002 season. But although Friends' eighth and ninth seasons were its highest-ranked seasons ever (No. 1 and No. 2 overall), the show isn't nearly as highly rated as it once was. It's just that its ratings remain higher than the still-lower ratings of other shows.

Only 21 million viewers tuned in last year, compared to the nearly 30 million viewers who watched during the Ross-and-Rachel heyday of Season Two. And fans haven't been coming back for the show's final episodes, either. During last week's time slot, more viewers watched CSI than the penultimate episode of Friends. As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel TV writer Tom Jicha pointed out this week, seven out of eight American homes don't watch Friends, and this season's ratings wouldn't have cracked the Top 20 for any show only a decade ago, in 1995. This is mass appeal?

But there's another, more fundamental problem with hailing Friends as the last great situation comedy: It misstates the genre to which the show belongs. Friends isn't a sitcom. It's a soapcom, a soap opera masquerading as a situation comedy. The earworm theme song, the laugh track, and the gooey sentimentalism all conspire to fool viewers and critics into thinking they're watching a family sitcom like Growing Pains or Family Ties updated for urban tribes (a Golden Girls for the pre-retirement set). But the beautiful people with opulent lifestyles, the explicit sexual content (everybody's slept with everybody, Ross's ex-wife is a lesbian, Chandler's dad is a transvestite, etc.), the long multi-episode story arcs, and each season's cliffhanger ending are the show's real hallmarks. Days of Our Lives isn't the only soap opera that Joey has a role in. And this one's got jokes to boot.

Somewhere along the way, TV drama and TV comedy switched places. It's fairer to call shows like Law & Order and CSI "sitdramas" than it is to call Friends a sitcom. Law & Order's syndicated success hinges on the tidiness of each episode. You can shuffle them all together and deal them out in any order you like, and viewers won't even notice. But if you shuffled episodes from Friends' 10 seasons and aired them in random order, you wouldn't have the slightest bit of continuity from show to show. Friends is Dallas without the shootings.

Rather than wrapping up plots in 30 minutes, as sitcoms do, Friends stretches them over several episodes, or even several seasons (or in the case of Ross and Rachel, all 10). A conventional sitcom plot, such as Chandler kicking Joey out of his apartment, gets a three-show treatment on Friends. Most sitcoms would feel obliged to slap "To Be Continued … " on any plot that lasts longer than half an hour. But the soapcom only very rarely begins even with a "Previously on Friends … " summation for the uninitiated. Believe it or not, Friends is structurally most similar to a show like The X-Files: Episodes are occasionally self-contained, but most expand upon series-long story arcs that grows more convoluted and harder for non-devotees to follow with each passing season.

On sitcoms, of course, big changes sometimes happen. As with Friends, characters get married, or have babies, or go to London. But the writers of sitcoms use such plot devices as exogenous shocks to try to revive a dying system. Can't think of anything new to write? Have the family adopt a homeless kid! Friends, by contrast, never pretended that it was about a static environment, an unchanging "situation" in which to insert comedy. You don't tune in to Friends to watch wacky hijinks—Will Chandler get stuck in an ATM booth? Will Phoebe land a music video?—but to find out what happens next in a plotline you've been following. How will Ross react when he sees Rachel with flowers at the airport? Whose room did Ross walk into, Rachel's or Bonnie's? Will Emily abandon Ross for saying Rachel's name at the altar? What will happen after Ross and Rachel's drunken Las Vegas wedding? Even Cheers, which had soapcom elements, didn't rely on plot to this extent.

Which is why, I think, when the writers of Friends referred to the demise of another TV show last week, it wasn't a sitcom. One of the most enjoyable things about Friends is the occasional ways that it comments upon itself as television. In the beginning, the frame of reference for the show was the sitcom universe. In the pilot alone, Rachel watches the Joanie and Chachi wedding from Happy Days ("See, but Joanie loved Chachi! That's the difference!" she says), and Monica refers to Joey and Chandler as "Lenny and Squiggy." Ten years later, the point of comparison is a different one: Bemoaning Rachel's imminent departure for Paris, Chandler says, "It feels like when Melrose Place got cancelled." Exactly.

* More Friends links on MSN.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

The 'O' Files: 13 Unsolved Outdoor Mysteries
Murder. Shocking disappearances. Haunting riddles. Although we all love to head into the wild in search of inspiration, sometimes what we find are dark enigmas. To explore this eerie side of things, we investigate 13 haunting true-life tales of crime and enduring mystery.
Tim Sohn

LOST SCION: Was Michael Rockefeller eaten by cannibals?

WINDING UP AS AN ENTREE was not what the 23-year-old son of New York governor Nelson Rockefeller had in mind when he ventured to the far side of the globe to pursue an anthropology career and a brief escape from his silver straitjacket. On November 18, 1961, Rockefeller, who was traveling the southern coast of Dutch New Guinea (now Indonesian Irian Jaya) buying art from the primitive Asmat tribe, disappeared when his overloaded 40-foot dugout was swamped in the Arafura Sea near the mouth of the Eilanden River. Two native guides swam three miles to shore for help while Rockefeller and his travel partner, Dutch anthropologist Ren Wassing, clung to the drifting boat overnight.

Help was slow getting to the stranded Westerners, and the boat continued to drift toward the open ocean. Rockefeller, convinced that the guides had perished, decided to swim to shore. His last words to Wassing were, "I think I can make it." And just like that, he was gone. (Wassing was picked up by rescuers the next day.)

While the waters in which the boat overturned were known to be infested with sharks and saltwater crocs, it is possible that Rockefeller, like his guides, reached land. If he did, he'd have found himself in a cruel parody of Gilligan's Island, a region of thick mangrove swamps and tribes of headhunters and cannibals.

The Dutch colonial government and the Rockefeller family organized a massive search, with more than a thousand canoes probing the southern coast for ten days. They found nothing, and in 1964, Michael was declared legally dead. But in 1969, prompted by a story from an Australian smuggler who claimed to have seen Rockefeller on a tiny outlying island, American journalist Milt Machlin launched his own investigation. In the end, Machlin dismissed such sightings. "I don't believe he was alive elsewhere," says Machlin, whose 1972 book The Search for Michael Rockefeller chronicled his investigation. "I think he was killed almost immediately after making shore." Machlin holds that Rockefeller's murder was an act of revenge for the killing of several local villagers by a Dutch colonial patrol.

The more fanciful theories of Rockefeller's fate follow a Conradesque trajectory, placing the young heir, Kurtz-like, in a remote native village, held as a captive god, or living there of his own volition. Today, the closest you're likely to get to him is a visit to the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where you'll find some of the Asmat artifacts he sent home before he disappeared. Or perhaps you'll find reason to believe, as many still do, that one of America's most fortunate sons went looking for and found a new life elsewhere.

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A Watery Grave
Eileen and Tom Lonergan went out for a day of scuba diving, and never came back
By Jason Daley

IT'S A DIVERS WORST NIGHTMARE: Miles from shore, you surface to find your charter boat nowhere in sight. You call for help, but there's no response. There are no outcroppings to hold on to. You hope that someone realizes their mistake before it's too late.

This is what presumably happened to Eileen and Tom Lonergan on January 25, 1998, at St. Crispin's Reef, a popular dive site on the Great Barrier Reef, 25 miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The Lonergans, diving veterans from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had gone out with the Port Douglas, Queensland-based scuba boat Outer Edge. Stories vary, but at the end of the day, the crew did a head count and came up with only 24 of their 26 clients. Someone pointed out two young divers who had jumped in to swim off the bow, and the crew, assuming that they had missed them, adjusted the count to 26. With the swimmers on board, the Outer Edge headed back to port.

Two days later, Geoffrey Nairn, the boat's skipper, discovered Eileen and Tom's personal belongings in the Outer Edge's lost-property bin, including Tom's wallet, glasses, and clothes. Concerned, he called the owner of the Gone Walkabout Hostel, in Cairns, where the couple had been staying, to see if they had returned. They had not. A five-day search began, which turned up no trace of Eileen or Tom. After more than 48 hours in the ocean, the couple may have drowned, or been eaten by sharks. But as the chilling story broke, other theories emerged. One is that they committed suicide, or a murder-suicide took place. Journals in their hotel room hinted at personal troubles, but the couple were devout Catholics with good prospects. Tom, 33, and Eileen, 28, had just come off a three-year tour of duty with the Peace Corps in Tuvalu and Fiji and were en route to Hawaii, where they hoped to settle down.

Another scenario has the Lonergans using the dive boat as part of an elaborate hoax to fake their deaths. Jeanette Brenthall, owner of a bookshop in Port Douglas, believes the couple came into her store on January 27, two days after their dive trip. The pair was also reportedly sighted in a hotel in downtown Darwin. Reports of a boat less than a mile from St. Crispin's Reef seem to support theories that the couple was picked up. But the Lonergans' bank accounts were never touched, and no one ever collected on their insurance policies. A few weeks after they'd gone missing, some of their personal dive gear washed up on a beach 75 miles from the dive site. Six months later, a weathered dive slate—a device used to communicate underwater—with contact information for Eileen's father and the words PLEASE HELP US OR WE WILL DIE. JANUARY 26, 8:00 A.M., was found floating in the same vicinity as the gear.

In November 1999, Geoffrey Nairn was tried on manslaughter charges and acquitted; he believes the jury felt he shouldn't be blamed for a mistake made by the entire crew. His company, Outer Edge Dive, was tried by a civil court in Queensland, pled guilty to negligence, and was fined. Nairn, who closed down Outer Edge Dive shortly thereafter, believes that the Lonergans died on the reef. "It was a tragedy, and I'll never get over it," he told Outside. "The highest probability is that Tom and Eileen are dead."

Back in Baton Rouge, Eileen's father, John Hains, also believes that the couple drowned after being accidentally left behind. "The Australian dive industry wanted to prove that Tom and Eileen faked their deaths," he says of the disappearance theories. "But the survival rate of being in the ocean with no place to go is nil."

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Summit Shot
Mountaineering's greatest debate—who reached the top of Everest first?—rages on
By Tim Sohn

"I CAN'T SEE MYSELF coming down defeated," wrote 37-year-old Himalayan pioneer George Leigh Mallory shortly before his third assault on Mount Everest, in 1924. Nearly 80 years later, whether the British explorer was defeated remains the biggest mystery in mountaineering history. Did he and his 22-year-old climbing partner, Andrew Comyn Irvine, reach the summit of the world's tallest mountain 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay?

Mallory and Irvine—nattily outfitted in gabardine, the Gore-Tex of their day—departed their high camp early on the morning of June 8. They were last seen by fellow climber Noel Odell at 12:50 p.m. ascending one of the three rocky steps that characterize the upper reaches of Everest's difficult Northeast Ridge. But clouds soon enveloped the top of the mountain, and Mallory and Irvine vanished into the penumbral mist.

Hard evidence in the case is scant. A 1933 British team found Irvine's ice ax below the first step, at 27,760 feet, and one of their oxygen cylinders was found nearby in 1991. A 1999 expedition led by American climber Eric Simonson discovered Mallory's bleached and mummified body lying facedown at 26,760 feet. As incredible as that discovery was, there are still no answers.

"The camera would be the definitive clue," says Simonson, alluding to the still-missing Vest Pocket Kodak that Mallory supposedly borrowed from a teammate for his summit bid. "And more evidence could absolutely be found up there."

The final sighting of the two climbers—the starting point for the bulk of subsequent speculation—became problematic as Odell equivocated in the days after the climb, unable to decide whether he had seen Mallory and Irvine grappling with the Northeast Ridge's relatively benign first step or the far more difficult second step. Climbers on the ridge today bypass the crux of the second step via a rickety ladder. The only group to ascend it in pre-ladder days, a four-man summit team from the 1960 Chinese expedition, did so with the aid of pitons—equipment that Mallory and Irvine did not have.

Everest veteran and filmmaker David Breashears, director of the 1987 documentary Everest: The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine, says there's no way the duo could have free-climbed the second step—and, thus, they could not have reached the summit. "At over 28,000 feet, in an unprotected lead with a bowline around his waist and hobnail boots, and with Irvine on a marginally anchored or possibly unanchored belay stance, Mallory climbs something as hard or harder than he'd ever climbed at sea level?" asks Breashears. "It is not only ludicrous to think they could do that; it is a flight of fancy."

American climber Conrad Anker, the 1999 expedition team member who found Mallory's body, agrees. "Saying that they could have climbed the second step is putting the romantic dream ahead of the factual evidence, and that, in a sense, does a disservice to the climbers," he says. "There's just no way they climbed the second step without gear."

But Simonson, who returned to Everest in 2001 for an unsuccessful attempt to find Irvine, refuses to rule out the possibility. "On a good day, sufficiently motivated, people do some amazing things," he says, referring to Mallory's indomitable will. "It's my opinion that it was possible for them to climb the second step."

Simonson is contemplating another fact-finding expedition to the mountain, spurred by the recent revelation that Xu Jing, a climber on the 1960 Chinese expedition, encountered a body—possibly Irvine's—in decaying old clothes, lying supine, arms frozen to his sides, on a section of the Northeast Ridge. If that is Irvine's body, perhaps he holds the final answer to mountaineering's long-standing debate in his icy grip.

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End Run
Amy Bechtel was there, and then she simply wasn't
By Tim Sohn

THE INEXPLICABLE disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel, on July 24, 1997, near Lander, Wyoming, awakened the town's close-knit outdoor community to a frightening realization: that a disturbed sociopath could be lurking in the trailside shadows.

On the morning of her disappearance, Bechtel, a 24-year-old runner and Olympic marathon hopeful, said goodbye to her husband, climber Steve Bechtel, and drove into town. The last verifiable sighting of her was in a local art gallery at about 2:30 p.m., wearing a yellow shirt, black shorts, and running shoes.

When Amy hadn't returned home by 10 p.m., Steve called her parents to see if she was with them. She wasn't. Shortly after, he called the sheriff's office. Amy's car was found at about 1 a.m. on Loop Road, which runs through the mountains of the Shoshone National Forest just outside of town. The car was unlocked, with the keys under Amy's to-do list on the passenger seat. She had been planning a 10K race in the area, and it is suspected she was scoping out the course.

Before dawn, a group of Steve and Amy's friends began scouring the nearby woods but turned up nothing. As continued searches—involving horses, dogs, helicopters, the FBI, and the National Guard—came up empty, theories proliferated: She'd been a victim of a hit-and-run, and the driver had buried her body or sunk it in a nearby lake; she'd been attacked by a mountain lion or bear; or she had run away.

The authorities, faced with few other plausible options, began to focus on her husband. Steve Bechtel, now 33, says he was rock-climbing with friend Sam Lightner 75 miles north of town on the day Amy disappeared; Lightner backed up this alibi. But some, including Amy's mother, JoAnne Wroe, continue to suspect that he may have been involved. Steve, who has never been charged, has steadfastly maintained his innocence and has remained active in ongoing efforts to find Amy. The most recent twist in the case is the pending trial of Dale Eaton, a Wyoming man accused of the 1988 sexual assault and murder of an 18-year-old Montana girl whose car was found buried on his property, north of Lander. Fremont County sheriff's sergeant Roger Rizor, the lead investigator in the Bechtel case, has declined to comment until Eaton's trial is resolved.

"None of us are ever going to have all of our questions answered," Steve says. "That's going to be a really hard thing to deal with for the rest of our lives."

Amy's mother disagrees. "We will find out," Wroe says. "Whoever is responsible is going to make an error at some point that will lead us to answers."

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Roanoke Colony vanishes forever
By Jason Daley

IN 1587, a group of 117 English colonists sailed to North America to establish a city on Chesapeake Bay but ended up on Roanoke, a small island near the Outer Banks of present-day North Carolina, stranded at the end of the summer with few supplies. Their governor, John White, returned to England with the ships that had brought them, promising to be back by spring. It took him three years.

When White finally returned, he found little trace of the former inhabitants except for a few abandoned cabins and the word CROATOAN carved into a tree. None of the colonists was ever seen again. The most plausible explanation is that some of the settlers traveled to a more hospitable island 50 miles south, while others crossed over to the mainland. Residents of Jamestown, established in 1607, heard tales of white people that had been massacred by Indians, or held by inland tribes as slaves; others reported seeing wild, blue-eyed children in the woods. But relentless research (four books on the mystery have been published recently) hasn't turned up anything conclusive. Four hundred years later, America's original missing-persons case is still its most mysterious.

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Chainsaw Massacre
Accused tree-killer Grant Hadwin may still be armed and dangerous
By Jason Daley

THE QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS, a world biosphere reserve 60 miles off the coast of British Columbia, was home to the earth's last giant golden spruce—a single specimen of Picea sitchensis "Aurea." The tree had stood for 300 years, and was fast becoming the Queen Charlottes' main tourist attraction. But Grant Hadwin had other plans for it. A former logger and gold miner known for erratic behavior, Hadwin ripped into the six-foot-diameter spruce with a chainsaw on January 20, 1997. Two days later the legendary tree toppled.

Hadwin, who immediately claimed responsibility for the act, sent a Unabomber-style rant to local papers, indicting "university-trained professionals" for "the destruction of life on this planet." He was charged with criminal mischief and the illegal cutting of timber, and a trial date was set for February 18. But Hadwin, who left Prince Rupert Harbor on a stormy February 13 in his kayak, never made it to court.

Four months later, pieces of his smashed boat were found on an island 70 miles north of Prince Rupert. Investigators at the time believed the wreck couldn't have been more than a month old. Hadwin could have capsized in the water or been killed in his kayak by enraged locals. But it's equally plausible that he paddled up the coast, went ashore, and then set his boat adrift. He was a competent woodsman and would have had no problem traveling inland through the bush and back into mainland civilization anonymously. (Some speculate that Hadwin was involved in the 2000 chainsaw vandalism of Luna, the redwood tree that Julia Butterfly Hill made famous.)

Back in the Queen Charlottes, local Haida Indians took cuttings from the golden spruce and planted one of the saplings in a park. It is surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire—in case Hadwin ever returns.

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Escape Artist
How one man faked his death—twice
By Tim Sohn

ALL MILTON HARRIS wanted was to disappear—permanently. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Harris faked his own death twice in an attempt to collect on nearly $3 million in life insurance policies, and then fell off the face of the earth for the (presumably) final time in 1995.

His first vanishing act was staged on a ferry off the coast of South Australia, where in May 1985 he jumped from the deck en route from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island. Reportedly, Harris was sitting on the seafloor breathing from a concealed oxygen canister when found by a 70-year-old retired police officer who had jumped in to save him. Four days later, Harris turned up in New Zealand, where he paid a young hitchhiker to help him disappear again. This time, Harris slipped off a New Zealand ferry as it departed. Once the boat reached open water, his accomplice shouted, "Man overboard!" and threw a life buoy with Oscar-worthy enthusiasm. Harris was gone.

Four years later, Harris was picked up by New Zealand police in Auckland, sent to the U.S., and sentenced to five years in prison for insurance fraud. Three years after his early release in 1992, he went missing again. "The authorities gave up searching for him," says Harris's sister, who wishes to remain anonymous. "It's one of those things that you'll always wonder about: Was there foul play, or did he pull another disappearing act?"

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One Giant Leap
With $200,000 strapped to his body, D. B. Cooper stepped out the back of a plane and into history
By Tim Sohn

AT 2:53 P.M. on November 24, 1971, a tall, nondescript man boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 305 from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle. Five hours later, with $200,000 in ransom money tied to his waist, he parachuted out the back of the Boeing 727 into the dense forests of southern Washington—and into the pantheon of folk heroes.

The man gave the alias Dan Cooper when he bought his ticket (an erroneous news report supplied the name D. B., which stuck). Wearing sunglasses and a dark suit, he found a seat in an unoccupied row. As the plane was taking off, he passed the flight attendant a note stating that he had a bomb in the briefcase on his lap and demanding $200,000 in small bills and four parachutes when they landed in Seattle. When his demands were met, Cooper released the passengers and directed the pilot to take off toward Mexico at an altitude below 10,000 feet and a speed of less than 200 miles per hour. Shortly after 8 p.m., Cooper ordered the flight attendants into the cockpit, put on two of the parachutes, lowered the aft staircase, and stepped out into the stormy night somewhere near the Washington-Oregon state line. To this day, it stands as the world's only unsolved skyjacking.

Despite one of the most extensive manhunts in FBI history, agents found no body or parachute and never determined the hijacker's real identity. Meanwhile, Cooper was rumored to be drowned in the Columbia River, dead and eaten by animals in the forest, laundering his cash in Reno or Las Vegas, or alive in New York, Florida, or Mexico. People came forward with skulls, deathbed confessions, and tales of a man who looked like the FBI's composite sketch, but none of it ever amounted to anything. Cooper's legend blossomed, inspiring a 1981 movie, The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper, with Treat Williams in the title role.

In 1978, a hunter in Washington found a plastic placard that was verified to be from the rear stairs of the 727. In 1980, an eight-year-old boy playing in the sand on the banks of the Columbia River unearthed $5,880 of Cooper's loot. Those 294 bills are the only part of the ransom that has ever surfaced, and they seem to lend credence to retired FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach's less than romantic version of what really happened.

"Most likely he was injured on impact," says Himmelsbach, who worked on the case from 1971 to 1980 and posits that Cooper died by the side of a creek. "And then later, the creek overflowed and carried him and the money downstream, where the money was found."

Sounds logical, but logic never killed a folk hero. The most recent fuel for the fire comes in the form of Duane Weber, a 70-year-old Florida man who, as he was dying in 1995, confessed to his wife that he was Dan Cooper. His widow, Jo Weber, contacted the FBI. She began to wonder about some of Duane's strange behavior—like the 1978 nightmare in which a sleep-talking Duane said something about fingerprints on the aft stairs, or the 1979 vacation to Washington during which Duane walked down to the banks of the Columbia by himself just four months before the portion of Cooper's cash was found in the same area.

"If Duane was not Cooper, someone will have to explain a lot of things to me," says Weber. "It is a story with so many coincidences that it defies the odds."

The FBI recently visited Weber's Florida home and removed gloves, an electric shaver, and hair samples, presumably for the purpose of extracting Duane's DNA to compare with that extracted from cigarette butts that the hijacker left behind. The FBI has confirmed that the case is still open, and will remain so indefinitely.

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Gold Fever Dreams
Buried treasure beckons on the Atlantic coast
By Tim Sohn

OVER THE PAST TWO centuries, six men have died in the Money Pit on Nova Scotia's Oak Island, site of the world's most famous treasure hunt. Legend has it that when the Pit claims its seventh life, the treasure will be revealed.

The Pit—which has lured FDR, John Wayne, and Errol Flynn to the hunt—has been variously rumored to hold the loot of Captain Kidd and Blackbeard, the crown jewels of France, and the Holy Grail. In 1795, as the story goes, three local teenagers discovered the shaft and eventually dug to a depth of 90 feet, encountering a stone that supposedly told of a treasure buried another 40 feet down. At 93 feet, they struck a booby trap that filled the cavern with water from the sea.

The Pit has now been explored to more than 200 feet, with little to show for it but several links of a gold chain and persistent rumors of a severed human hand and a preserved corpse deep inside. According to professional skeptic Joe Nickell, who has debunked mysteries from the Shroud of Turin to Jack the Ripper's diary, the shaft and the flood tunnel are natural features in the region's porous limestone geology. "Instead of asking, 'What might this fabulous treasure be?' we should be asking, 'What treasure?'" says Nickell. "If it sounds too good to be true, maybe it is."

Or maybe not.

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No One Knows
Was 20-year-old Everett Ruess a suicide, murder victim, or something else?
By Jason Daley

"WHEN THE TIME COMES to die," wrote 18-year-old Everett Ruess in a letter in 1932, "I'll find the wildest, loneliest, most desolate spot there is." No one could have predicted it would happen so soon. In November 1934, just shy of his 21st birthday, Ruess left home and never came back. It was the end of a long, strange journey he'd begun four years earlier.

In 1930 Ruess, a dough-faced boy from Los Angeles with dreams of becoming a painter, set off alone into the Sierras with a set of watercolors, a camera, and a journal. A peripatetic loner, he ranged through the Sierras and later the Four Corners region, sending home paintings and ecstatic letters describing the natural world—an ebullience that contradicted his darker musings. Ruess's story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Chris McCandless, the 24-year-old wanderer who died in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992. (Jon Krakauer devotes a large section to Ruess's story in Into the Wild.) Like McCandless, Ruess was charismatic and self-confident but also exhibited extreme mood swings. He dodged practical concerns—money, work, or parental expectations—that interfered with his free-spirited ramblings.

Each year Ruess pushed deeper into the wilderness. When he hit Utah's rugged Escalante country in November 1934, the letters home stopped. Three months later, his burros, a bridle and halter, and candy wrappers were found in Davis Gulch, an offshoot of Escalante Canyon. Searchers followed Ruess's footprints out of the gorge, but the tracks disappeared at the base of the Kaiparowits Plateau. The only other clue was the word NEMO—Latin for "no one"—scratched into a rock and an old native dwelling in Davis Gulch.

Neither Ruess's body nor any conclusive evidence of his fate has been found, spawning endless speculation. It has been suggested that he was murdered by a Navajo named Jack Crank, who supposedly hated whites. Others are convinced that he was killed by cattle rustlers. Then there's the possibility he committed suicide, and left the NEMO carving as his farewell note. In 1999, the excavation of a mound thought to be Ruess's grave, near Hole-in-the-Rock, Utah, was discovered to be nothing but a pile of dirt.

W. L. Rusho, author of Everett Ruess: A Vagabond for Beauty, doubts Ruess made it out of Escalante alive, and guesses that the lad fell while climbing or got himself trapped in a side canyon. "It's very doubtful at this time that anyone could find Ruess's remains," says Rusho. "I think Everett's fate will always be a mystery."

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Without a Trace
The mountain gods swallow another life
By Jason Daley

ON JULY 8, 1999, Bronx-born journalist Joe Wood hiked up to Mount Rainier National Park's Mildred Point Trail. A 34-year-old African-American editor for a New York book publisher, Wood was in Seattle for a minority journalists' conference when he decided to spend a day bird-watching. He was not a novice in the outdoors—he'd been an Eagle Scout—but he may not have been prepared for conditions in the park. Rainier had received the fifth-heaviest snowfall in its history, and the six-mile hike was lined with tree wells and treacherous snow bridges.

On the trail, Wood encountered Bruce Gaumond, a retired Boeing employee who came forward after he heard that Wood was missing. Gaumond told the National Park Service that the two had chatted briefly about birds, the length of the trail, and a dicey creek crossing ahead. Wood was never seen again. Did he fall into the creek or stumble off a snowy cliff? The Park Service thinks so, but Wood's mother, Elizabeth, is not so sure. She remains haunted by the possibility that some kind of foul play may have occurred. Searchers scoured the area for five days, but a warm spell had melted the snow, obscuring Wood's tracks. When a final search in September 1999 turned up nothing, Joe Wood was listed as the 65th person to disappear on Rainier.

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An Untimely End
A photographer turned up dead in placid Isabella Lake, and there's no explanation
By Jason Daley

ADVENTURE PHOTOGRAPHER Barry Tessman survived a lot during his ten-year career behind the lens—two years in Siberia; ventures in Tibet, India, and Pakistan; and Class V torrents from China to northern Canada. But it was on a cold, calm day, on a glassy lake he'd paddled hundreds of times, that Tessman met his fate.

At 7:30 a.m. on January 16, 2001, Tessman, 41, a Class V river guide, backcountry ski patroller, and trained EMT, loaded his 19-foot Phantom racing kayak onto his truck and set out for the North Fork Marina for an hourlong flatwater workout on Isabella Lake, near his home in Kernville, California. By 10:30 a.m. he had not returned, and his wife, Joy, seven months pregnant with their second child, called Tom Moore, Tessman's friend of 20 years, to find out if he'd seen him. Moore had not, but promised to check the marina. Using binoculars, he spotted Tessman's kayak floating in the middle of the lake with its paddle stowed, but Barry was nowhere in sight. A 50-person sweep of the lake turned up no sign of the missing paddler.

Then, on February 18, a Kern County park ranger discovered Tessman's body floating near Boulder Gulch, three-quarters of a mile from where his kayak had been found. The official cause of death was drowning, but a second autopsy showed that Tessman had also suffered blunt-force trauma to the head, raising the disturbing specter of foul play, and prompting his family to post a $20,000 reward for information about the case.

No one has stepped forward, and investigators at the Kern County Sheriff's Department have deemed Tessman's death an accident, while admitting to a lack of evidence. "We are no closer than we were the day his body was discovered," says Moore. "All the different theories we've come up with have gaping holes in them."

It's possible that Tessman flipped his boat and somehow cracked his head on an exposed rock, but that wouldn't explain why his paddle was stowed. He may have gone ashore to scout photo locations on Rocky Point, fallen, hit his head, and then slipped into the water. And then there is the more troubling scenario: Was he a victim of a random act of violence?

Tessman's death may never be fully explained, leaving his loved ones to grapple with the mystery. "Maybe they needed a photographer up in heaven," says Moore. "That's the only peace I can make of it."

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Forever Wild
We don't know where Edward Abbey is buried. Maybe it's better that way.
By Jason Daley

"THE LAST TIME ED SMILED was when I told him where he was going to be buried," says Doug Peacock, an environmental crusader in Edward Abbey's inner circle and the prototype for Abbey's most famous character, George Hayduke, in The Monkey Wrench Gang. On March 14, 1989, the day Abbey died from esophageal bleeding at 62, Peacock, along with friends Jack Loeffler, Tom Cartwright, and Steve Prescott, wrapped Abbey's body in his blue sleeping bag, packed it with dry ice, and loaded Cactus Ed into Loeffler's Chevy pickup. After stopping at a liquor store in Tucson for five cases of beer, and some whiskey to pour on the grave, they drove off into the desert. The men searched for the right spot the entire next day and finally turned down a long rutted road, drove to the end, and began digging. That night they buried Ed and toasted the life of America's prickliest and most outspoken environmentalist.

Abbey's grave, a closely guarded secret for 13 years, has become a legend. His friends broke several laws by transporting Abbey's corpse without a permit, interring him illegally on federal land, and forging a death certificate. Ed would have been proud. Peacock and Loeffler, both of whom have written about the backcountry funeral, refuse to spill the beans, saying only that Abbey's grave is somewhere in the southwestern Arizona desert, decorated with feathers, shells, rocks, and other trinkets. There is a rough epitaph hewn into a nearby rock. It is, according to friends, one of the most beautiful and fragile spots in the American desert—a good reason why Peacock and his undertakers hope to keep the secret forever.

If by chance you find yourself in southwestern Arizona and accidentally stumble upon a decorated mound of dirt, avert your eyes, take a swig of whiskey, and head in the opposite direction. Some mysteries are best left unsolved.

* * *

Enduring Enigmas
These classic cases have stumped investigators for years—and perhaps always will
By John Galvin

The 39-year-old aviator disappeared in the central Pacific on July 2, 1937, near the end of her 29,000-mile around-the-world flight. Neither her body nor her plane was ever found. Were Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, U.S. spies, and were they captured by the Japanese? Was Earhart the voice of WWII radio broadcaster Tokyo Rose? According to American explorer Dave Jourdan, who's planning a two-month 2004 expedition to search for the missing aircraft, the truth is much more mundane: Earhart likely ran out of gas and drowned when her plane crashed into the ocean.

Waterman proved his alpine skills with a five-month first ascent of Alaska's 14,573-foot Mount Hunter in 1978. But as Jonathan Waterman (no relation) reported in his 1994 book In the Shadow of Denali, Johnny's behavior became increasingly erratic after that climb. On April 1, 1981, 28-year-old Waterman attempted a solo first ascent of the east face of Alaska's 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. Witnesses say he carried very little food and gear when he started up McKinley. Did Waterman slip into a crevasse, or did he deliberately die on the mountain—as his father, Guy, would do 19 years later, freezing to death on New Hampshire's Mount Lafayette?

The Idaho newlyweds were last seen walking down a Grand Canyon trail toward the Colorado River in November 1928. A month later, their wooden scow was found floating right side up at the western end of the Canyon, sans the Hydes. In 1971, a client on a Grand Canyon rafting trip claimed that she was Bessie Hyde, and that she had murdered her husband on the river years earlier. But Canyon locals long suspected that river guide Georgie White was the real Bessie; the Hydes' marriage certificate was said to be in her possession when she died in 1991.

McCandless headed into the Alaska wilderness in April 1992 to live off the land. Four months later, hunters found the 24-year-old dead outside of Denali National Park. As chronicled in Jon Krakauer's 1996 book Into the Wild, McCandless likely died of starvation. Journal entries indicate that he'd become too weak—possibly after eating poisonous seeds of the wild sweet pea—to continue foraging. But the question still remains: Was McCandless simply naive, or did he have a death wish? "If this adventure proves fatal and you don't ever hear from me again," he wrote to a friend before his trip, "I want you to know you're a great man. I now walk into the wild."

'Sesame Street' Comes to Afghanistan
Apr 30, 7:29 AM EST

The famous puppets of "Sesame Street" will help Afghanistan's children overcome their country's traumatic past, starring in videos to be shown in schools recovering from Taliban rule and decades of war.

The first of 400 education kits, with specially adapted programs featuring Big Bird and other characters, have been given to Afghan authorities, officials said.

"We need our children to have their eyes and their minds opened to new ideas," said Sekander Giyam, an adviser to the Afghan minister of education.

The kits also will help Afghan teachers "move into a new century of education," Giyam said in a statement released late Thursday.

Each kit contains 10 20-minute episodes made from material developed for Alam Simsim, an Egyptian adaptation of Sesame Street funded by the U.S. government.

For Afghanistan, the program has been dubbed in Dari, one of the country's two main languages, and renamed "Koche Sesame."

The Afghan government and aid groups are to distribute the kits to schools, orphanages and TV stations across the country, according to the Rand Corporation, a U.S.-based think tank helping organize the project with financial backing from Qatar.

The kits, which include a message from President Hamid Karzai, are a contribution to efforts by the Afghan government and international donors to restore the country's shattered education system.

Thousands of classrooms are being built and repaired, and millions of children have returned to school, including girls barred from all education until the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The "Sesame Street" videos will "foster awareness of other cultures, highlight opportunities for girls and women, and increase student interest in education and career opportunities," Rand said.

But it was unclear how many students they will reach, given that few schools or families in impoverished Afghanistan can afford video equipment, and many in the south and east of the country speak only Pashto language.

Three schools in the capital, Kabul, and seven others across the country will show the videos in a first phase, said Najiba Maram, another Education Ministry adviser.

Gary E. Knell, the president of program maker Sesame Workshop, said the initiative was a "first step" in promoting literacy, counting, sharing and cooperation in a country ravaged by conflict.

Sesame Workshop, a nonprofit educational group formerly known as the Children's Television Workshop, has also produced programs for South Africa and Russia as well as Egypt.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

17 Ways to Get a Pre-Teen to Read
Easy ways to keep your child turning the pages

Amidst the flurry of friends, homework, and hormones, your pre-teen may not feel like reading. Try these tips for keeping her interest and skills on track.

1. Let your child choose what to read. While you may cringe at his preferences, he may never touch a title if it's force-fed.

2. Talk about what she reads. Ask her what she thinks of a book and make connections with ideas or issues that are relevant to her life.

3. If he's struggling or bored with a book, let him put it down. Forcing him to stick with a difficult or dull book that's intended for pleasure will reinforce the idea that reading is a chore.

4. Subscribe to magazines that will interest her. Ask her to choose one or two titles and put the subscription in her name.

5. Read the newspaper together. Whether it's for 15 minutes over breakfast or on weekends, establish a routine and discuss what you each read.

6. Be flexible with bedtime and chores when your child is reading. Within reason, avoid asking your child to stop reading.

7. Play games that utilize reading. Word- and vocabulary-building games like Scrabble or Boggle are great, but many board games provide reading opportunities (even if it's just the instructions). Crosswords provide opportunities for learning new words and spelling practice, too.

8. Encourage your middle-schooler to read to a younger sibling. Letting him take over ritual reading at bedtime once a week will ensure he reads something, and he may find his sibling's enthusiasm for stories contagious.

9. Visit the library together. Try to make it an event where you share some quality one-on-one time and both choose a few books.

10. Find an outlet for your child to "publish" a book review. When she finishes a book, encourage her to write it up for a family or school newspaper, magazine, or Web site. She could also try posting a review at a local bookseller or an online retailer.

11. Ensure he has a good reading space. He should choose where it is, but you can make sure it's well lit and inviting so he stays a while.

12. Keep up on what she's reading. If you can, read a few pages of her books yourself so you can discuss them with her.

13. Encourage writing. Whether it's via snail- or e-mail, suggest that he keep in touch with distant friends or relatives. Keeping a journal or chronicling a family vacation will also provide reading practice.

14. Provide a good dictionary. She may not want to ask for your help with words anymore, so make sure she has a good reference.

15. Suggest books from movies he liked. He may enjoy getting even more detail in the book.

16. Listen to books on tape in the car. If you're heading on vacation, or even back-and-forth to school, try listening to a novel that will appeal to everyone.

17. Model reading. Your pre-teen will still follow your reading habits (though she'll never let you know it!). Let her see you reading, make comments, and share interesting passages with her.