Hmmm... that's interesting.

Articles and other literary ticklers.

My Photo
Location: Mandaluyong, Philippines

Friday, May 27, 2005

"Sith" Fans Maimed in Lightsaber Mishap
By Charlie Amter
1 hour, 27 minutes ago

The Force--let alone common sense--was definitely not with them.

Two British Star Wars fans sustained critical injuries after constructing their own lightsabers from fluorescent light tubes filled with liquid fuel.

According to British media reports, a 20-year-old man and his 17-year-old female friend were filming a mock duel in homage to Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith, the latest chapter of George Lucas' record-breaking franchise.

The duo were reportedly emulating one of Sith's key battles, a lightsaber clash between Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker.

The two Brits suffered severe burns when their homemade sabers exploded. The two had been videotaping their clash. They have been hospitalized at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire since the accident Sunday.

Aside from fiery accidents, the Sith craze is being blamed on a string of robberies. In separate incidents in Illinois and Florida, dark side-inspired crooks wearing Darth Vader helmets are being sought by police on assault and robbery charges.

Meanwhile, in other Sith-related news, federal authorities have shut down online file-sharing network Elite Torrents. The network had Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith available as a download hours before the film even bowed in U.S. theaters on May 19. Officials for the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security said users of the site had downloaded Sith more than 10,000 times in its first 24 hours of availibility.

Still, the online leak hasn't hurt Sith's bottom line, as the film broke all kinds of box-office records, including a Chewbacca-size $50 million on its first day of release.

All told, the film has raked in nearly $183 million domestically, per, with the lucrative Memorial Day weekend looming.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Topher Grace Joins 'Spider-Man 3' Cast
The Associated Press

Topher Grace, who starred in "That '70s Show," has joined the cast of "Spider-Man 3." Although his character wasn't revealed, director Sam Raimi said Grace "will be perfect for the complexities of the role we are developing."

"Topher Grace is an extraordinarily talented actor," Raimi said in a statement Thursday. "I couldn't be more excited about the direction we are taking the continuing adventures of Peter Parker."

The 26-year-old actor will join franchise stars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco. "Sideways" star Thomas Haden Church also has been announced as a cast member in the film, which is set for release in May 2007.

Shooting on "Spider-Man 3" is expected to begin next year.

Grace's screen credits include "In Good Company," "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" and "Mona Lisa Smile."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Top 10 'Star Wars' Moments
As the series winds down, we look back on our favorite scenes from the Lucas Universe

By Gregory Ellwood

After 28 years, one of cinema's greatest sagas is coming to an end with the release of "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith." The final events leading to Anakin Skywalker's journey to the Dark Side and his transformation into Darth Vader will finally be revealed. Plus, we'll find out the fate of Padmé, Obi-Wan, Yoda and numerous other Jedi, as well as just how siblings Luke and Leia end up separated across the galaxy. So, while you wait, what better way to refresh your "Star Wars" memory then to revisit some of the greatest moments in the series so far?

10. Obi-Wan vs. Jango Fett
'II -- Attack of the Clones'

Why: Ever since his first appearance in "The Empire Strikes Back," fans had been salivating to see just what that cool Boba Fett action figure, err, character could do. They partially got their wish in 'Episode II.' When Obi-Wan visits the planet Kamino, he discovers an army cloned from the genes of bounty hunter Jango Fett has been built to service the Republic. In addition to a large sum of money, Jango has received a clone of himself that will age naturally. (The soldiers' aging has been accelerated.) He is raising him as his son, Boba Fett. Realizing Obi-Wan might find out more than he should, Jango and Boba attempt to escape. Their rain-drenched encounter showcases the cool aspects of Jango's jet pack and some quick thinking by Obi-Wan. For many fans, the long wait to see a Fett in action was well worth it.

Cheese Factor: Having the young Boba Fett fire on Obi-Wan, while helping Jango fight, was a little goofy, but certainly showed he was a gene off the old block.

Memorable Line:
Obi-Wan: "Oh, not good."

Watch the clip

9. The Pod Race
'I -- The Phantom Menace'

Why: This is arguably the most effective scene in "The Phantom Menace," and it is also one of the few with genuine tension. Showing off the technical jump in CGI special effects, the pod race stands as a beautifully rendered showcase for young Anakin's skills as a pilot and machinist. Half video game simulation and half plot point, Anakin's triumph against the shifty Dug Sebulba frees him from junk shop proprietor Watto's enslavement. It also allows him to leave Tatooine with Qui-Gon and Padmé to begin his journey as a Jedi.

Cheese Factor: Where to begin! From Anakin's silly alien racers to the two-headed American sports style announcing team, this scene is full of moments where someone should have told Lucas, "George, stop the insanity!"

Memorable Line: Besides Anakin's friends cheering and some bad dialogue by the race announcers, none... which also helps this scene.

Watch the clip

8. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan vs. Darth Maul

Episode: 'I -- The Phantom Menace'

Why: No moment showed what a great leap the live action fights were going to take in the three new episodes than this climactic showdown within Naboo's Theed Royal Palace. Fighting with his two-bladed Sith lightsaber, the mysterious Darth Maul takes on both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in spectacular fashion. Separated from each other, Obi-Wan watches in horror as Qui-Gon is taken down by the Sith lord. Obi-Wan avenges his death by slicing Maul in half -- much to the Sith lord's surprise. Qui-Gon's sacrifice is the first sign that a truly dark time is coming. Fans ended up loving Maul much more than Lucas had anticipated. In retrospect, even Lucas would admit his death may have been somewhat premature.

Cheese Factor: The concurrent scene of Padmé and her security forces attempting to recapture her palace intercut with this fight are typical examples of Lucas' stiff direction in the first two episodes, but the battle itself is well done.

Memorable Line:
Qui-Gon: "We'll handle this."

Watch the clip

7. The Escape from Jabba at the Sarlaac Pit

Episode: ' VI -- Return of the Jedi'

Why: Fun and action packed, this scene showed the influence of old movie serials on Lucas' storytelling. Nothing was cooler than realizing Luke Skywalker had become so confident and powerful as a Jedi that even as he was seemingly being thrown from a galley plank to his death, he was still completely in control. A blinded Han Solo's banter and physical comedy with Chewbacca are also highlights. Occurring at the end of the first act, the scene foreshadows that the rebels' luck is not as bad as it was in "The Empire Strikes Back." And who didn't love the skimpy outfit Lucas convinced Carrie Fisher to wear as Leia?

Cheese Factor: None.

Memorable Line:
Luke: "Jabba, this is your last chance. Free us or die."

Watch the clip

6. Yoda vs. Dooku

Episode: 'II -- Attack of the Clones'

Why: Yoda had been a fan favorite since Frank Oz began voicing and manipulating him in puppet form in "The Empire Strikes Back," but by 2002 digital effects allowed Yoda to do things Oz could never accomplish. The smallest Jedi shows just how strong the Force can be in his battle against the dark Count Dooku, played by geek favorite Christopher Lee. Yoda's whirling dervish attack elicited cheers of joy from many fans when they first saw it. You always knew Yoda could kick some butt and this fight was worth the price of the ticket alone. Now if only it was a bit longer...

Cheese Factor: None. It's the coolest thing Lucas has directed in the new episodes so far.

Memorable Line:
Dooku: "It's obvious this that this contest cannot be decided by our knowledge of the force, but by our skills with a lightsaber."

Watch the clip

5. Lando Calrissian Betrays Han and Leia

Episode: 'V -- The Empire Strikes Back'

Why: One of the few true surprises in the series, Calrissian's duping of the rebels into Vader's grasp cut like a knife. You knew things were going to get bad, but this event felt incredibly ominous. It also was just another sign of how few characters in the "Star Wars" universe could be trusted, though to the delight of many Calrissian makes up for his mistake later on in the film and later leads the rebel attack fleet in "Return of the Jedi."

Cheese Factor: Darth Vader at a formal dinner table is a bit odd...

Memorable Line:
Lando: "I'm sorry."
Han Solo: "I'm sorry too."

Watch the clip

4. Luke vs. Vader vs. the Emperor

Episode: 'VI -- Return of the Jedi'

Why: Luke resists the temptation to join the Dark Side and then makes a heroic sacrifice in order to save his father. Lucas had slowly been hinting that Vader's feelings for his son were conflicted and his turning on the Emperor is one of the best moments in the film. In light of the long history between Anakin Skywalker and the Emperor chronicled in the first three episodes, this scene will only become more poignant over time. Ian McDiarmid's deliciously devilish performance as the Emperor is a highlight.

Cheese Factor: The Emperor gets a little too zealous zapping "young Skywalker" and creeps around like the Wicked Witch of the West from the "Wizard of Oz," but he is supposed to be evil.

Memorable Lines:
The Emperor: "Now young Skywalker, you will die."
Luke: "Father!!"

Watch the clip

3. Luke Destroys the Death Star

Episode: 'IV -- A New Hope'

Why: Luke's willingness to turn off the automatic guidance system, "search his feelings" and take his chances with "The Force" is a metaphor for modern day faith. In the context of the film's initial release in 1977, it was perceived as an anti-establishment call that soon became part of the pop culture vernacular. It also hints at how powerful this young Jedi from Tatooine will become.

Cheese Factor: A lever from a 1977 television editing console is used to try and destroy the rebel base at Yavin, but they only had so big a budget back then.

Memorable Line:
Obi-Wan: "Use the force, Luke."

Watch the clip

2. Leia Admits Her Love Before Han Freezes

Episode: 'V -- The Empire Strikes Back'

Why: Lucas had hinted at a love triangle between Luke, Han and Leia in "A New Hope," but one of best sub plots of "Empire" is the growing Hepburn/Tracy-esque love affair between Han and Leia. When Vader is about to drop Han into the carbon-freezing chamber, Leia's true feelings are revealed and audience's allegiances start to drift away from the stoic young Jedi and toward the separated lovebirds.

Cheese Factor: None. It's a finely directed and compelling scene.

Memorable Lines:
Leia: "I love you."
Han: "I know."

Watch the clip

1. Hey, Luke, Who's Your Daddy?

Episode: 'V -- The Empire Strikes Back'

Why: At the time, Darth Vader's revelation to Luke Skywalker that he was his father was the biggest shocker since the "Who shot J.R.?" cliffhanger on the TV series "Dallas." The scene set up an epic confrontation for the third film and three long years for fans to wonder if it was true or just a ruse for Vader to draw Luke to the Dark Side. (Imagine the scuttlebutt if the internet had existed back then.) In the context of the three new episodes, the relationship mirrored the struggles that would lead Anakin Skywalker into becoming Darth Vader. Luke's ability to resist that calling and free his father (in "Return of the Jedi") only illustrates what a stronger Jedi and man he was. But it all began here.

Cheese Factor: Mark Hamill's line reading when discovering Vader is his pop is whiney... but when compared to some of the more recent Lucas-directed performances, it's really not that bad.

Memorable Lines:
Darth Vader: "No, I am your father."
Luke: "That's not true! That's impossible!"

Watch the clip

Honorable Mentions:
- Luke saves Leia from chasing storm troopers by swinging through the Death Star like a hero from a '30's serial. ('Episode IV -- A New Hope')

- R2-D2 sends a message to Obi-Wan, but Luke gets it instead... and the action begins ('Episode IV -- A New Hope')

- The Millennium Falcon hides in an asteroid that surprisingly turns out to be alive. ('Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back')

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Weirdest Interview Behavior
By Laura Morsch,

Before a big interview, a smart job seeker carefully chooses his or her outfit, researches the company and prepares smooth answers to questions the interviewer might ask.

But not everyone is a smart job seeker.

When recently surveyed more than 600 hiring managers, nearly 70 percent reported they had witnessed a bizarre behavior from a job applicant during an interview.

Here are some of the gross, mind-bogglingly bizarre, and all-too-true ways real people blew their chances at scoring the job.

Not putting in the face time
You can't get the job if you don't show up for the interview. Several employers reported having job seekers blow off the interview completely, but that pales in comparison to some of the not-so-graceful ways some candidates made early exits.

Many bored candidates were spotted continually checking their watches, and one interviewee asked the hiring manager to speed things up so he could catch a bus. Another job seeker booked it out of the interview upon hearing about the drug test. But the weirdest story came from a hiring manager who said, "One applicant said the company had a black aura and left."

Looking unprofessional
A first impression can make or break a candidate – but apparently some applicants don't understand the concept of "business-appropriate" attire. Several ultra-casual candidates arrived at their interviews in T-shirts and jeans, but that's not the worst of it.

One job hopeful arrived at his interview displaying a hairy chest, medallion, strong cologne and a wad of gum in his mouth. And which is worse: the applicant who wore a housecoat and slippers or the one who wore his slippers with a bathing suit and T-shirt?

But remember: Even impeccably dressed people can appear unprofessional. Singing the national anthem, trying to sell the interviewer a car, doing yoga at the interview, and showing off your Ben Stiller imitation are proven ways to do just that.

Being excessively nervous
Some degree of anxiety is normal – even beneficial – at an interview, but hiring managers report some candidates take nervousness to the extreme. Applicants stuttered, giggled, babbled, and forgot what jobs they were applying for – but they were the lucky ones. Other, not-so-smooth job seekers wet themselves, and one applicant vomited on the interviewer's shoes.

Being too forthcoming... or not honest enough
Sure, you only want that retail job for the 30 percent employee discount. But you wouldn't actually say that in an interview... would you?

Some people did just that – or worse. One applicant raised eyebrows when he asked whether spousal abuse would prevent him from getting the job. Another said she had serious health problems and needed the company's insurance. And one job-hopping hopeful disclosed that he planned to retire in two months.

Likewise, some hiring managers say interviewees are less than truthful in their applications. One candidate said he was in the military... and George Bush was listed as his last supervisor. Another admitted he didn't do all of the duties listed in his résumé – but he assured the hiring manager that didn't matter.

Being greedy
Asking about employee benefits during the first interview is almost always a no-no. Yet many job seekers were too quick to ask about salary, time off, vacations – even a raise before they had received the offer. Other, more audacious candidates complained about the hours they had to work, and one even asked, "How soon can I have your office?"

Acting desperate
Of course you want the job, but wowing the interviewer with your skills and qualifications is much more effective than outright bribery. Some candidates, however, went to all sorts of desperate measures. Applicants offered their interviewers gifts, money and even sex in return for a job offer, and one job seeker offered to shine the hiring manager's shoes.

Beyoncé and Justin's Bar Mitzvah Invite

Do you remember your 13th birthday party? Chances are it involved streamers, balloons and, if you were really lucky, an ice cream cake with a novelty candle on top. Too bad your dad wasn't British billionaire Philip Green -- your big day would have been a whole lot more memorable.

The Times of London reports the flashy mogul marked his son's first steps into adulthood with a private bar mitzvah performance by Beyoncé and Destiny's Child, who apparently can be compelled to play the adolescent party circuit if the price is right.

The three-day bash at the exclusive Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat in Nice reportedly set the proud pop back around $7 million and change, about $2 million less than he spent for his 50th birthday in Cyprus in 2002, which featured teen-repelling warblers Rod Stewart and Tom Jones.

The paper says Destiny's Child was part of a "wish list" selected by Green's son and 14-year-old daughter, who we're sure won't feel at all let down by life as they get older. The chart-topping group's set list included the ubiquitous "Bootylicious" and the oh-so-appropriate "Bills, Bills, Bills." No word on whether the trio also grooved out to "Havah Nagila."

Another performer who apparently made the kids' cut was Justin Timberlake, who the Times says bailed out of the bar mitzvah after undergoing a throat operation, reportedly to have nodules removed from his vocal cords.

Us Weekly says the former boy-bander was due to pocket more than a million for the gig (set at the same swanky locale where he was supposedly going to tie the knot with girlfriend Cameron Diaz the weekend before last), but due to the surgery likely would have had to lip-sync his hits.

Timberlake's rep, however, is loudly kvetching about the bar mitzvah talk, telling the New York Daily News it's "total nonsense."

"Nobody who reps Justin knows anything about this," he insists to the paper. "Don't you think there'd be travel arrangements? Or a contract?"

Us stands by the story, snipping, "If Justin doesn't go to the bar mitzvah, maybe it's because he's embarrassed to be performing in front of a bunch of 13-year-olds." Which is different from every other performance he's ever given how?

Anyhoo, Justin, who turned up in Mississippi over the weekend for a charity golf tournament, plans to give his voice a rest, although it's unclear how long his crooning hiatus will last: Us says a month, while People says it'll be more like three months.

Either way, somewhere a 13-year-old wipes away a tear, presses her lips to the well-worn Justin poster on her wall and curses her daddy for not being rich enough to rent international superstars for the day.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Where Do Mob Nicknames Come From?
The origins of "Tony the Ant," "Big Tuna," and "Joey the Clown."

By Daniel Engber

They call him "Chin" but not to his face

On Friday, the convicted Chicago mobster Frank "Frankie Breeze" Calabrese pleaded innocent to a new charge of racketeering. Calabrese is one of 14 alleged mobsters who were indicted two weeks ago, at the conclusion of a long-running FBI investigation. Among those fingered are Frank "Gumba" Saladino, Paul "The Indian" Schiro, Frank "The German" Schweihs, and the apparent kingpin of the Chicago mafia, Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo. Where do mobsters get their nicknames?

From family members, childhood friends, business associates, newspaper reporters, or the police. Not every mobster has a nickname, and some have more than one. Chicago boss Anthony Accardo, for example, was known to his colleagues as "Joe Batters." He got the name from Al Capone after he dealt out a pair of savage beatings with a baseball bat: "This kid is a real joe batters," Scarface said. But the press called Accardo "Big Tuna," after seeing a photograph of him on a sport-fishing expedition.

"Joey the Clown" Lombardo earned his nickname from the press, thanks to his fondness for zany public behavior and cheesy jokes. At the conclusion of one of his trials, Lombardo attempted to elude newspaper photographers by converting a newspaper into a makeshift mask with eye-holes and racing out of the courtroom. At a subsequent trial, Lombardo explained to reporters that a piece of his jewelry was made from "canarly stone": "You 'canarly' see it," he said.

Mobsters may not like the nicknames they get from reporters and cops. Tony "The Ant" Spilotro (whose murder almost 20 years ago plays a major role in the recent indictments in Chicago) got his from FBI agent Bill Roemer, who had tried to spread the longer and less polite nickname "Pissant" to his buddies in the press. New Yorker Carmine "Junior" Persico was given the unflattering name "The Snake" by a police officer. Persico hated it, especially after "The Snake" caught on among some fellow criminals.

Mobsters sometimes use nicknames with each other to avoid easy identification by the feds. The mob boss Vincent "Chin" Gigante (whose nickname was short for "Vincenzo") insisted that his name never be spoken aloud. His wiseguys were told instead to rub their fingers across their chin or, at one point, to refer to him as their "Aunt Julia." Meanwhile, the press dubbed Gigante "The Oddfather" after he began posing as a schizophrenic in the late 1960s.

Former head of the Gambino crime family John Gotti took pride in the fact that he had no nickname among his peers—everyone knew who you meant if you said "John." Members of the press called him the "Dapper Don," the "Teflon Don," and, following his conviction in 1992, the "Velcro Don."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Why we love the ones who hurt us
Victims of abuse suffer from the Stockholm Syndrome too

By Clint Van Zandt
MSNBC analyst & former FBI profiler

In August 1973, a heavily-armed robber by the name of Olafson swaggered into a busy bank in downtown Stockholm, Sweden. Firing shots as he entered, he took three women and a man hostage, strapped dynamite to their bodies, and herded them into a subterranean bank vault where he refused police demands for his surrender and the release of his hostages for the next six days.

After the eventual arrest of the robbers (a friend of the bank robber who was in prison at the time had been brought mid-standoff to the bank at the demand of Olafson) and the rescue of the four victims, the continued friendly and caring attitude on the part of some of the hostages toward their captors was viewed with suspicion. This was especially so when the police considered that the captives were abused, threatened, and had allegedly feared for their lives during the week they had been held against their will. Authorities were even more amazed when they found out that one or more of the female hostages may have had consensual physical intimacy with their captors.

The relationship between the robbers and their former captives thereafter saw former hostage Kristin break off her engagement to another man in order to become engaged to Olafson; while another former hostage started a defense fund to pay for the robbers' legal defense.

The relationship that develops between hostages and their captors is now known as "the Stockholm Syndrome," a type of emotional bonding that is in reality a survival strategy for victims of emotional and physical abuse— including not only hostages, but also battered spouses and partners, abused children, and even POWs.

Hostage in abusive relationships
Although not victims of a robbery or hostage situation, 700,000 Americans per year experience non-fatal physical domestic violence. There are about 8 million individuals involved in emotionally and physically abusive relationships at any one time. About 20 percent of all women report having been assaulted by an intimate partner in their lifetime. In same-gender partner violence, over half a million gay men are victims of domestic violence. Ten percent of high school students and 40 percent of college students report being assaulted by a date, and 20 to 25 percent of college women report rape during college. The vast majority of rapes and intimate partner violence, whether the victim is male or female, still go unreported.

The bond that exists between the captor/abuser and his or her victim is strong and can compel the victim to stay with (or otherwise support the actions of the abuser) when the need to run is blatantly obvious to everyone but the victim. The investment that one has made in the relationship directly impacts the ability to recognize the negative or threatening aspects of the association. This also affects the ability to either correct or flee.

People share various intimacies with their significant others (who may also be an abuser). Abusers can threaten to tell other people about the "special" aspects of their relationship, if he or she does not do exactly as the abuser says. Victims may have become financially dependent on the abuser and find themselves unable to pay their own way, or they may believe that they can't make it in life without the other's physical and financial support. Many have allowed an abusive relationship to stay hidden from family and friends, and people have stayed in these kinds of relationships so as not to embarrass themselves or their abuser. (One woman whose husband made her "pretend" to beg for physical intimacy with him told me that she'd be too embarrassed for "her husband's sake" to ever ask for help, even though this aspect of their relationship emotionally devastated her.)

Some abused individuals have had children with their abuser; therefore they keep quiet so as not to "damage" their family reputation or otherwise impact on the "stability" of their family, forgetting that to allowing one's self to be abused in front of one's children only paves the way for further victimization. Allowing abuse to go on in a family also sets a negative example that children may follow, perpetuating the abuse from generation to generation.

Why don't victims just leave?
Abused individuals are questioned by family and friends as to why they take the mistreatment and why they just don't leave. This is one of the many situations in life where you must have walked a mile in the shoes of another to understand their situation. A long-term relationship is just that for many of us— long-term. We have invested much of ourselves into the relationship and it just isn't like selling a car that continues to break down. A large part of one's sense of self-worth and self-esteem is likely to have been invested in the relationship and, like the broken down car, we just want it fixed and running— as we neither want nor can afford a new car or a new relationship.

Hostage negotiators know that they cannot argue or otherwise talk a delusional individual out of their delusion. They will not listen to the negotiator, or they will somehow incorporate the negotiator into their delusion. They can write off the negotiator off as someone who "just doesn't understand."

If you are in a long-term abusive relationship, your choice may be to ignore the warnings of others,believing that those opinions could destroy your relationship. The logic goes that the person offering advice simply doesn't understand your situation and doesn't know that their well-meaning advice, if taken, could destroy your relationship with your spouse or partner. But the long-term effects of abuse include depression; suicide or attempted suicide; anxiety; guilt; withdrawal from school, work and social settings; feelings of shame; and symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (both on the one abused and on any children in the family).

What to do if you're in an abusive relationship
Understand that an abusive individual will continue to abuse you until you stop him or her from doing so, even if it requires you to emotionally and physically separate yourself from your abuser. But don't allow your abuser to separate you from your contact with family and friends. They are your support system and you need them to help you maintain a healthy frame of reference concerning your life, your relationship, and the world.

If the victim of the abusive relationship is your child or a friend, you need to remain supportive and not put even more stress, pressure, and guilt on the abused individual. An abuser can change, but he/she must want to change, and the longer he is allowed to abuse, the less likely he is to alter his behavior. If emotional or physical abuse is present in a dating relationship, know that the abuser is a loser; the abuse will become worse as time goes by, so turn on your heels and move quickly away from the influence of this person. Period.

If you, your friend, or your child is involved in a long-term abusive relationship, including a marriage with children, again know that the abuse is not likely to end without outside assistance. The more you pretend it isn't happening, or the more you accept abusive behavior in your home and within your family, the more will come your way.

I recall a woman who told us that she helped her husband commit a kidnapping and murder because "If he was occupied doing something else, he was too busy to abuse me."

The abuser may threaten you or even himself ("I'll kill myself if you leave," or "I'll lose my job if you tell") in an attempt to control you and keep you as his helpless victim. He may abuse and then— even beg— for your forgiveness, only to reoffend in the near future. If the abuse is due to a mental disorder, a personality disorder, or substance abuse, there is no way that it will get any better. It will definitely get worse. Some victims will become so conditioned to their abuser's actions that they cannot function without the co-dependent relationship with their abuser.

Like cancer, abuse will not heal itself and if left alone, it can destroy your lifestyle and happiness. It may even take your life. Be quick to demand that the abuse ends— and if it doesn't, know that your decision is either to continue to be emotionally and perhaps physically pounded on, or to seek outside help to save the relationship, and possibly save your very life or that of your children.

Stockholm Syndrome in the news
Many have suggested that Patty Hearst was also a victim of the Stockholm Syndrome. After being kidnapped and tortured by the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) in February 1974, she took on the nom de guerre of “Tania” and helped the SLA rob banks.

It has also been suggested that 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart, kidnapped from her Utah bedroom in June 2003 and made to become the bride of her kidnapper, suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. Her captor was a drifter and self-described prophet who calls himself ‘Emmanuel.” Smart was found alive and wandering around with her kidnapper in an open public setting some nine months later.

Not everyone continues to take this abuse and many have successfully altered the behavior within the relationship— or left the relationship to ultimately survive and thrive. We all need to endure the many challenges and traumas of life in ways that preserve our sense of self worth and self-esteem. We don't have to be victims and we don't have to accept abuse at the hands of others, especially a supposed intimate whom we initially trusted and loved and who now hurts us with clock-like regularity. We each have an inner voice that tells us when something is really wrong. In the case of abusive relationships, listen to the voice and then do something about it. Your very life is on the line.

Oh, and by the way. Remember the Stockholm bank robbery where the hostages gave into their captors? In another similar situation, the police sniper had to shoot an armed hostage-taker who was threatening the lives of two female hostages. When shot, the robber fell to the floor, whereupon his two female hostages picked him up off the floor and held him in front of a window so that he could be shot a second time. (No second shot was needed.)

Stay safe!

Other tips and information concerning personal and child safety and security can be found at

Psychic detectives and the search for truth
Are psychics the wave of the future or snake oil salesmen?

By Clint Van Zandt
MSNBC analyst & former FBI Profiler

In the recent search for missing 9-year-old Citrus County Florida resident Jessica Lunsford, investigators had to sift through 3,000 potential leads that came from the public and from other agencies.

As we now know, a "person of interest" (the current politically correct term used to refer to a person we formerly called a suspect or a subject) in young Jessica's disappearance was identified as 46-year old previously convicted sex offender John Evander Couey. After undergoing an 11-hour interview by Sheriff's investigators and FBI agents, which included a polygraph exam, Couey confessed to kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering Jessie. He then led authorities to her body that he had concealed behind his sister's residence, a distance of approximately 150 to 200 yards from Jessica's home. Apparently, Couey had told a relative and two other people about Jessica's murder, and now all three are charged with obstructing police and remaining quiet about this unthinkable crime. Couey has been charged with capital murder.

Of the 3,000 tips that came to the attention of the authorities after Jessica's disappearance, over 400 were from self-professed psychics or self-identified clairvoyants. Police say their information was vague and unsupported, not unlike most tips provided by psychics. But even though authorities questioned the value of such mystically-generated information, teams of detectives and FBI agents still had to be assigned to track down these leads, resulting in the use of valuable investigative resources (to no avail).

This was also the case in the disappearance of eight month pregnant Laci Peterson where local authorities received hundreds of similar tips from individuals identifying themselves as psychics. One so-called psychic Website claims that its members specialize in finding missing adults as well as lost, "misplaced," and abducted children, pets, and jewelry.

Is this snake oil— or the beginning of the future for law enforcement and a quantum leap for criminal investigative analysis?

A law enforcement obligation to follow all leads
As an FBI agent for 25 years, I know that law enforcement has an obligation to run down any information that might lead to the location of a missing child or adult, or that could help solve a kidnapping or a murder (let's put the misplaced pets aside for the moment).

In the case of a vulnerable young child like Jessica Lunsford, the survival clock starts ticking right from the moment she goes missing. Such a clock has only a few hours on it. Statistically, a child is kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered in the United States every other day. It is a startling reality to deal with. How we utilize our law enforcement investigative resources in the first few hours, days, and weeks, depends on the quality of information that we are able to develop from the crime scene; from our investigation of family, friends and neighbors; and from information provided by the public— including all so-called tips.

Clairvoyants date back to Nostradamus
Clairvoyants are said by some— usually those who want to believe— to have the power to see the future, perceiving things beyond the natural range of the five senses. Television has played and replayed stories of 17th century clairvoyant Michel de Nostredame, commonly referred to as Nostradamus. A physician and astrologer, some of his obscure imagery is said by believers to have predicted events in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the 9/11 attacks on America. For example, in 1654, Nostradamus wrote:

"Five and forty steps the sky will burn. Fire approaching the large new city. Instantly a great thin flame will leap, when someone will want to test the Normans."
This has subsequently been "enhanced and amended" by believers to read:

"In the year of the new century and nine months, from the sky will come a great King of Terror. The sky will burn at forty-five degrees. Fire approaches the great new city. In the city of york there will be a great collapse, 2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos while the fortress falls' the great leader will succumb; third big war will begin when the big city is burning."
"Five and forty": How did this rather innocuous sounding number become 45 degrees north latitude, and become close enough to New York City's location at 40 degrees, 42 minutes north latitude to "confirm" what Nostradamus wrote some 347 years prior to 9/11? Why not equate this number to 45 degrees south longitude or even to 5:40 PM?

"Fire approaches the city": What are the chances that some large city somewhere will somehow have a large fire sometime during its existence?

And on and on, noting that the current information of myth, i.e.,— that Nostradamus had made a reference to the city of York and to the Twin Towers being torn apart and World War III beginning, is all a hoax perpetrated either on, or by, those who seek a reason to believe. But its origins are still in fiction and are not in historical, scientific, or investigative fact.

AP Shoe leather, not sixth sense, breaks cases open
The truth is out there— but probably not with mediums

By Clint Van Zandt

From October 1979 to May 1981, an unknown serial killer was believed to have murdered 27 African American boys in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Statistically speaking, most serial killers are white, so law enforcement initially thought that the killer was likely to be a white racist.

The police and the FBI received many tips during this investigation, including those from professed psychics. One such woman called me and indicated that the killer was a white male who had been interviewed by a detective early on in the investigation. She said that during the interview, the killer lit his own cigarette with a match bent in a particular way from a matchbook. It was a detail the detective would remember, she said. We spoke to every FBI agent and detective assigned to the case but no one recalled this incident.

An FBI profiler who was working on the case pointed out the obvious though— that since most of the boys were taken from black neighborhoods where a white man would stand out, the police should be looking instead for a black serial killer. The killer would then dispose of his victims in a nearby river to confound the forensic evidence that could be gathered from the bodies.

Wayne Williams, an African American, was subsequently identified on a bridge over the river in question, at a time a new body was dumped into the river. He was arrested, and later tried and convicted. Case closed.

Part One
Psychic detectives and the search for truth

Psychic styles
Some psychics claim to see remote images. Some “read into the future” by looking at the palms of our hands (chiromancy) or tea leaves (tasseography). Some rely on information from “spirit guides” and may even practice cleidomancy, divination through interpreting the movements of a key suspended by a thread from the nail of the third finger on a young virgin's hand while psalms are recited. Others hold an object related to the crime in their hands and get impressions of the victim, the crime, or the criminal (psychometry). One psychic network claims success in just over 20 percent of their cases, something that appears far less successful than that of a mere guess in a 50/50 situation.

It's possible that some psychics are just really good interviewers or body language-readers. Some of them will roll out names and numbers, waiting for some response from the person, and then they will enhance that point of information to fit the situation.

My point is this: If psychics were truly successful and if their results were not simply the consequence of trickery (at worse) or good interviewing skills (at best)— then why don't law enforcement agencies have psychic detective squads, a real X-files Unit, or other ways to integrate these paranormal investigative capabilites?

Reason to believe
You know, we all want to believe in something. Some want to believe that Elvis is alive and a part of the Federal Witness Protection program. Others want to believe that TWA 800 did not explode in mid-air in July 1996 due to an electrical/fuel tank problem, but instead had been shot down by a U.S. Navy missile as incorrectly offered up by former White House press secretary Pierre Salinger. Some choose to believe that unidentified black helicopters frequently carry Russian Special Forces troops (Spetsnaz) across America for secret night time training missions. That Area 51, also known as Groom Lake, not only housed the development of the B-2 stealth bomber and the F-117 stealth fighter, but (as watching reruns of nine years of Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully will show you) was also the secret storage location for alien spacecrafts that have crashed over the years, perhaps including the very aviators that manned these intergalactic flying machines.

Each of us can believe what we choose, but in the criminal justice field, crimes are solved by investigation and information— not by rubbing sticks together, huddling over a Ouija Board, or talking to a spirit guide. A 17th-century dowsing sleuth was tested in Paris and failed every test given to him. A 1991 test of a London-based police psychic concerning her ability to use psychometry to solve crimes suggested that she had no such skill. And a standing $1 million reward for anyone who can prove paranormal power still remains unclaimed.

What happens many times is that professed psychics allow themselves the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. After the case is solved, they make their previously vague predictions somehow fit the crime and the criminal.

I've had psychics tell me the victim was killed near a body of water (the murder took place along Lake Michigan, come on…); that the victim was buried in a shallow grave (most killers don't necessarily take the time to dig a “deep” grave); or that the victim was in a remote location (that's right, we haven't found her yet, so she could be somewhere remote).

A last resort in an hour of need?
Lastly, many, particularly parents of a missing or kidnapped child, turn to psychics and other claimed paranormals as a last resort in their greatest hour of need. I would never deprive any parent the opportunity to avail themselves of every legitimate investigative tool that could help them find and save their child.

But to seek the counsel of psychics outside of law enforcement is simply not wise. There are many in this world who will tell you anything to gain your confidence— or access to the contents of your checking account. In such emotionally-charged situations, one's common sense must run alongside one's overwhelming concern.

Trust the police and know that you can sleep at night by having done everything you could to support the investigative efforts in your loved one's behalf.

Yes, the truth (about crime) is out there somewhere, but it will probably not be found by mediums visualizing the crime scene, nor will they be in those who claim to see through the eyes of the killer.

Whether they profess to see dead people or simply rely on a claimed sixth sense that the vast majority of us do not possess, psychics' track record hovers around mere chance rather than statistical certainty. I'd dance with the devil or talk to anyone who had information that could possibly save the life of a missing child, but until psychics establish the track record of multiple successes like those of criminal analysts, I wouldn't bet the farm on their ability to name the next Pope, or tell us who really shot JR or JFK.

(For information on "Protecting Children from Predators" and other home, travel and personally related security issues, see

Coats of Arms and the History of Heraldry

One of the foremost myths of family history is the presumed significance of coats of arms. Formally known as “heraldry,” this field of study is decidedly more complex than the peddlers at the mall would have you believe. Proving your entitlement to a coat of arms is actually quite an achievement, often taking time and considerable surname research.
But just for fun, we’re giving you the history of heraldry – what the study entails and how it can be helpful in your family history research.

What is a coat of arms?

Fiction: It is commonly believed that a coat of arms is associated with a surname – an ancient family sharing its emblem with all related bloodlines and ensuing generations. Another assumption is that those sharing the same surname can adapt a common coat of arms for use on tee shirts, key chains, and other novelty items.

Fact: Analogous to a medal of honor, a coat of arms was typically bestowed by a magnanimous ruler as a reward for services rendered. When the grantee died, the coat of arms was then passed to the eldest son under the rights of primogeniture – much the same as a title of nobility or a piece of personal property.

What are the elements of a coat of arms?

Crest: The crest is usually in the shape of an animal’s head and appears directly above the helmet and shield.

Helmet: A helmet is just that – a helmet modeled after the style of the century. The appearance can vary depending on the artist.

Mantle: The mantle is a decorative sort of flurry that flanks either side of the shield. The mantle represents cascading yards of cloth, but more often resembles the leaves of a plant.

Motto: The motto, typically in Latin, reflects a collective set of virtues and/or lofty aspirations. For example, the ancient motto for the Gordon Clan of Scotland is “Animo non astutia,” meaning “By courage, not craft.”

Shield: The shield is the centerpiece of a coat of arms incorporating unique shapes, colors and charges (crowns, fleur-de-lis, and so on).

Supporters: The supporters flank the shield, just like the mantle. Only the supporters are usually animals (deer, lions and sometimes people).

Wreath: The wreath looks like a twisted piece of cloth or rope and corresponds to the colors of the shield and mantle. It is always placed on top of the helmet just beneath the crest.

How can I find my family’s coat of arms?

Step 1: Do your genealogy
Coats of arms were granted as early as the fourteenth century and as late as the twentieth (mostly throughout Britain and Western Europe). So it goes without saying that the further back you can trace your ancestry, the more likely you are to find a legitimate coat of arms.

Step 2: Contact the office of heraldry
Depending on your nationality, you’ll need to contact the appropriate office of heraldry, grants, or registrations. One of the largest is the College of Arms located in London, England. These offices usually have several centuries worth of “arms grants” on record.

Step 3: Register your blazon
If you can prove your entitlement through a legitimate paternal line, you’ll be awarded the right to register your blazon of arms (the “blazon” being a written description of your unique coat of arms). Once you’ve been authorized or “confirmed” by the office of heraldry, you can then display your coat of arms proudly and, best of all, legally.

Is CSI For Real?
by Paul D. Rosevear

There's no doubt about it: The forensic science on the television drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is highly contagious. The hit show has inspired spin-offs and exploded enrollments in forensics programs at many colleges and universities.

But is the line between entertainment and education getting blurred? Read on to explore the difference between forensics and faux-rensics ...

The Prosecution
In light of the public's rabid appetite for CSI and programs like it, experts have mixed feelings on the impact the show's popularity is having. "CSI is getting more people interested in the science, which is fantastic," explains Dr. Jennifer Thompson, program director of multidisciplinary studies at University of Nevada, which offers a forensic science degree program. (In fact, one of UNLV's professors, Daniel Holstein, is the real-life inspiration for Gil Grissom, CSI's leading character.) "The shows themselves are idealized versions of the field. They've got wonderful technology that just isn't available in real life, and everything gets solved in a neat and tidy hour!"

If it seems a little bit unrealistic that each episode's investigators spend time collecting data at crime scenes, conducting tests and experiments at laboratories, reviewing evidence at police departments, and questioning suspects, it's because it is. In reality, there are highly trained specialists who do each of these tasks separately, and case resolution is often far from TV-perfect.

Data analysis often takes weeks or even months. "It's the speed and the specificity more than anything," says Dr. Stephen Theberge, assistant professor of chemistry at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachussetts. Theberge teaches a forensic analysis course and offers a forensics concentration for chemistry majors.

"You don't just stick something into a machine and immediately find out it's got Maybelline lipstick on it, color 42. It's just not that easy," he says. Characters on forensic TV shows often possess the skills of many different kinds of specialists--it's much more exciting to see the countless aspects of the field crammed into one supercharged investigator. "The investigator position on TV is an amalgam of a police officer/detective and lab scientist. In reality, this position doesn't exist."

The Defense
Though some of the miraculous tactics and technologies used to solve crimes on TV and in movies don't really exist, you'd probably be surprised to find out just how many of them actually do. James Lucas, adjunct faculty member at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, teaches law enforcement students about the equipment used by the FBI and other crime-solving institutions.

"We are the first college-level forensics course in the U.S. to feature instruction using the Intergraph Video Analyst System," he says. This system utilizes NASA-developed VISAR (Video Stabilization and Registration) technology to examine video. "Very often, it's never more than a tattoo, or a kind of sneaker, that is needed to identify a criminal from video footage," he explains, so in that sense, there is some truth to TV plots. "This was the same technology that was able to identify the Rider truck used in the Oklahoma bombing."

Like Thompson and Theberge, Lucas acknowledges that TV's depiction of the ease with which forensic technologies can yield results is usually exaggerated--but that plenty of amazing gadgetry does exist. "In addition to the video system, we'll teach students something called Faces 1.0, a program that creates composite facial drawings," he says. "The full-fledged police version has 2,000 extra choices for eyes, features, aging, and more." Another device Lucas mentions is AFIX 5.0, a desktop automatic fingerprint and palm print comparison system--something many Hollywood criminal justice fans are familiar with from movies.

What's the Big Deal?
At the end of the day, is it really such a serious crime if shows like CSI project an embellished version of forensics work in the name of entertainment? Probably not. But the public's growing awareness is indeed making its way into the courtroom.

"Nowadays, juries expect to see amazing forensic stuff," says Melissa Connor, adjunct forensic science professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University (Lincoln, NE). "They've seen all of the expensive techniques and they want to be wowed."

For the forensic enthusiast who wants a more accurate look into crime solving, there are some shows that are more fact than fiction. "When I started Forensic Files, over 10 years ago, it was because of what I saw going on in the O. J. Simpson trial," explains the show's executive producer and creator Paul Dowling. During each episode, the show reviews real-life cases and the techniques used to solve them. "My perception was that we had a bunch of jurors who were asked to try to understand very complicated genetic science and DNA. I wanted to show people what can be done with forensic science, as well as what can't be done."

A Real-Life Look
While the forensics you see on television may be enhanced to keep things action-packed, there is plenty of real-life action happening every single day. Jessica Mondero, a recent graduate of the master's program in forensic science at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska, was called out to Iraq as part of a team Professor Connor assembled to exhume and analyze human remains from mass graves. The evidence culled will most likely be used in Saddam Hussein's trial. Talk about real-world application!

"I was there for three months while I was finishing my degree," she explains. "There was a little hesitation on my part to go over there--just because you know it's not a peaceful place. But the fact that there is a United States military presence over there made me feel more secure."

Mondero, Connor, and the rest of their team set up camp right outside the grave sites, along with roughly 30 other specialists from the United States. Iraqi forensics workers were also present, learning techniques from the U.S. team so they could continue the work after the American workers moved on.

"I worked in the morgue, which was located inside of a U.S. camp," explains Mondero. "I analyzed artifacts that were recovered with the bodies in the grave. It was my job to go through clothing, jewelry, IDs, blindfolds, gags, ligatures--anything that didn't deal with the bone."

Though Mondero didn't deal with bones, her experience may be considered bone-chilling by many. "It takes a certain personality to be in this field," she admits. "But I really enjoy problem-solving and investigative work. A lot of what we'd do in the master's program would be via e-mail or the Internet, but the most exhilarating stuff was hands-on. I love to piece together the story of how something actually happened."

How Mothers' Prayers Impact America
Stormie Omartian

Being a mother is the greatest of all privileges. And it is also the biggest of all responsibilities. It is the best of all jobs, while at the same time it is the most difficult of all jobs. Being a mother can bring you the highest joy. It can also cause the deepest pain. It can make you feel like a huge success when everything is going well. And cause you to feel like a failure when something goes wrong. I know this because in my nearly thirty years of being a mother, I have experienced all those things many times over.

When I was a young mother I was overwhelmed by the task of raising two children. Because of my mother's mental illness that went totally untreated, she had been violently abusive when I was growing up. As a result, I didn't have any kind of positive parenting experience to imitate. When I brought my first child home from the hospital a few days after he was born, I was painfully aware that I didn't know what I was doing. So I turned desperately to God for help. Every day. Sometimes on an hourly basis!

Through that time of depending on God to show me the way, I discovered that God doesn't want us to raise our children without His help. Of course He wants us to do our part and "train up a child in the way he should go", but He also wants us to look to Him to give us the wisdom, strength, and ability we need to do the job well. One of the most important parts of our job as a parent is to keep our children covered in prayer.

I believe that being a parent is becoming more and more difficult each year because of what our children are exposed to and bombarded with everywhere they turn. But we don't have to be worried sick, dreading what is around the corner, or fearing the worst. We don't have to be tossed to and fro by every new stage and age and trend and fad. We have the power to make a big difference in our children's lives through prayer. That doesn't mean we abdicate our responsibilities as parents. It means we partner with God to raise our children as we pray for every aspect of their lives. When we don't pray for them, we leave our children's lives up to chance.

Praying for our children doesn't mean that nothing will ever go wrong in their lives. But when it does, we don't have to beat ourselves up for not being perfect parents. Besides, it's not being a perfect parent that makes the difference in a child's life, for there are no perfect parents. It's being a praying parent that makes a big difference. And that's something we can all be.

Some of the things I learned to pray about regarding my children were, first of all, that they be protected from any danger, disease, accidents, or evil influences. I also prayed that any rebelliousness in them would be broken, that they be people of truth and not lies, that they would be attracted to God's ways and His laws, that they would have a deep inner knowledge of right and wrong, that their talents and gifts would be identified and used for good, and that they would have a sense of God's purpose for their lives. I have seen God answer those prayers and countless more in a powerful way. Imagine what could happen in our nation if all mothers and dads prayed for their children like that?

One of the greatest things we as mothers can do for our nation, along with praying for the President, is to pray for our children. They are America's bright hope. No matter what age they are - toddler, teen, or thirty something - no matter where they are - at home under your feet, away at college, or living out on their own - your prayers can be the most powerful influence that will ever touch your young person's life.

One of the reasons I joined the Presidential Prayer Team was because I know prayer works, and I wanted to partner with others to pray for our President. When I joined, there were a handful of us. Now there are millions. There is great power in numbers, especially as it pertains to prayer. The same is true regarding praying for our children. If we were to join together and pray, not only for our own children, but also for the children of this nation as a whole, our prayers would impact America in a powerful way. Fellow moms of America, the future is in our hands! Shall we get on our knees?

Hollywood's Real Motive
Kelly Boggs

McMINNVILLE, Ore. — I once thought the movie industry was motivated purely by profit. I believed that films were fraught with vice, violence and vulgarity because of public demand. Hollywood had convinced me that it was just giving moviegoers what they wanted.

A closer examination of news reports recently has caused me to rethink Hollywood’s motives.

According to a variety of sources that track movie performance, PG films grossed more at the box office than did R-rated titles in 2004. In fact, five of the top-10 moneymakers were PG flicks. Out of the top 25 movies of last year, only four carried R ratings.

For years the only G-rated films Hollywood produced were animated. Since 2001, Tinseltown has produced four films that were G rated and not cartoons. Among the titles were "The Princess Diaries" and "The Rookie."

While none of the non-animated G-rated movies enjoyed the publicity of more hyped R and PG-13 films, each had respectable and profitable showings at the box office.

Despite the positive performance of PG and G rated films, the movie industry continues to churn out filth-filled flicks. If Hollywood is so motivated by profit, then why is it not producing more family friendly fare?

The debate over the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 provides a clue.

The FECA, signed into law April 27 by President Bush, provides protection to filtering technology that enables an individual to skip or mute sections of a DVD movie they deem objectionable. It protects the companies – ClearPlay being the industry leader – from lawsuits. ClearPlay produces DVD player software that allows consumers to avoid offensive content.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) objected to FECA, arguing that allowing the content of their films to be skipped would violate their “artistic vision” as well as “freedom of expression guaranteed in the First Amendment.”

There you have it, the motive of the DGA is not profit; it is to spread an artistic vision to the masses. If it were about money, the directors would be applauding FECA. With its passage there is no doubt they will sell more DVD versions of their films than ever before.

Case in point: I saw “Friday Night Lights” (a movie about Texas high school football) in a theater this past fall. Though rated PG-13, I was very uncomfortable with the language and sexual content in the film. There was no way I was going to allow my 14-year-old son to view it.

I recently purchased an edited version of “Lights” from a company that provides cleaned-up copies of original films. The unnecessary sexual content was gone, as was the vulgar language. I was pleased with the finished product.

Thanks to the editing company, Hollywood had a sale it otherwise would have lost. I plan on purchasing edited versions of other movies and I am certain that I am not alone.

For the Directors Guild of America to charge that the new law infringes upon its First Amendment right of expression rings hollow. Theaters will still show movies unedited with all of a director’s crass, salacious and titillating expression intact. FECA only applies to DVDs purchased by a consumer.

At least the DGA is honest when it maintains its desire to protect the “artistic vision” of films. The directors have tipped their collective hands. They are motivated by the desire to impact viewers with a message – their “artistic vision” of reality.

Now we know the real reason the movie industry eschews family friendly films for movies steeped in sexuality, brutality and obscenity. The driving force for too many directors is an agenda that not only calls into question, but also undermines traditional morality.

DVD filtering technology has helped put the squeeze on Hollywood’s directors and they are spewing the truth. Money is not their primary motive. Rather, is an “artistic agenda” that is often both indecent and immoral.

Who's Afraid of Friday the 13th?
by Martha Brockenbrough

So today is Friday the 13th. And if you're thinking, "big deal," you're right. It is a big deal. Such a big deal that nearly $1 billion worth of commerce won't happen, because people are afraid to fly, travel, and shop.

But you're not one of those people, right?

Actually, I'd bet you are. Maybe you're not a paraskevidekatriaphobe. That's the fancy Greek term for people who fear Friday the 13th. Paraskevi is the Greek word for Friday, and dekatria is how Greeks say 13. Phobe, as you might have guessed, relates to phobia. But I'll bet you do things every single day because--know it or not--you're a little bit superstitious.

When you yawned this morning (after getting up on the right side of the bed and starting your day off on the right foot), did you carefully cover your mouth?

Probably so. It's what we do to be polite. But there's more to it than this--people used to think that your soul would rush out of your body if you issued an unprotected yawn.

And the same goes for sneezing. You may say "Gesundheit!" or "Bless you!" to be a nice person.

But what you're actually doing is carrying on a tradition apparently started by the Roman emperor Tiberius. According to one legend, Tiberius would ride in his chariot blessing anyone who sneezed, because a deadly disease at the time, in its early phases, caused sneezing. The more blessings were passed around, the less likely people were to die--or so the thinking went. This same thinking continued in Europe in the Middle Ages, when people were dying of bubonic plague.

Saying "Bless you!" isn't so silly, of course. Combine it with the cover-the-mouth-and-protect-your-soul rule, and you are much less likely to spread nasty germs.

Fear motivates a lot of superstitions. But this is a far cry from phobia--a persistent fear that can alter a person's life, even if he or she knows that it's irrational. There are many different kinds of phobias, including aerophobia (fear of flying), homilophobia (fear of sermons), and pogonophobia. (What's pogonophobia? It's not fear of pogo sticks, it's a fear of beards.) Want to see a list of even more phobias?
But Friday the 13th is special. It combines Friday--considered an unlucky day by some--with the number 13, which has long been considered bad news.

Maybe you never thought of Friday as unlucky. Friday's often payday for us working stiffs. It's the start of the weekend. There's even that "TGIF" restaurant that serves a pretty tasty fried-cheese appetizer (if you want to tempt fate and clog your arteries). Friday is also the Muslim Sabbath and is the day for religious gatherings.

But Friday also carries negative connotations. For starters, Eve is rumored to have given Adam the apple on a Friday, according to Donald Dossey, founder-director of the Phobia Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Talk about a snack that's spelled eternal heartburn, even in Disney films. What fruit knocked out Snow White? Right. The apple.

(The really amusing thing is that the old adage, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," has actually been shown to be true.)

And the number 13 has been feared for a long time, too--except in Italy, where "Fare tredici!" or "To make thirteen!" is the slogan of the national lottery. There, if you get a thirteen, you win.

Want to Learn More?
Some societies have done seemingly extreme things in the name of luck and superstition. Take the Aztecs, who would toss a still-beating human heart into a sacred fire to appease the gods.
About 90 percent of Otis elevators don't have a button for the 13th floor. The U.S. Navy won't launch a ship on Friday the 13th. And, as a former flight attendant once told me, many people just won't fly on the 13th, unless they're headed to Las Vegas. Apparently, the unluckiest day has an opposite effect when you're gambling.

And the fear is historic: A Norse myth has it that a great dinner party with 12 guests was ruined when a 13th crashed the event and killed the god of joy and gladness. There were also 13 guests at the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, who was crucified on a Friday. Finally, a correctly tied hangman's noose has 13 knots, and executions used to happen on Fridays.

So, it's no wonder that we sometimes make a big deal out of Friday the 13th, even today, when we're steeped in science and technology, and know a great deal about how the world works.

For most people, Friday the 13th probably means taking minor precautions. Like avoiding black cats. Since I have a black cat, I can say that's probably a good idea on most days of the year. (Sorry, Spot. But you're a bad kitty.)

If you want to get into the fun of it, though, Dossey has some wacky precautions you can take to stay lucky this Friday the 13th.

Stand on your head and swallow a chunk of beef gristle
Take a holey sock to the top of a skyscraper or a mountain
Walk around the block with a mouthful of water--and be careful not to swallow it
Tie a sack of peony seeds around your neck (not too tight, though)
If you don't want to get in on the fun of it, well, I'd say you're missing out. You might even be kidding yourself about how rational you really are.

We usually think superstitious people just don't know any better, but that's pretty snobby of us. Superstitions are so common that sometimes we don't even recognize them for what they are.

Is it really bad luck, for example, for the groom to see the bride before the wedding? Why do brides wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue? Superstitions, all of them.

But I walked down the aisle myself with blue-painted toenails. So far, it's been a great marriage. Knock on wood.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Ridley's 'Kingdom'

If there is one thing legendary director Ridley Scott is good at, it's creating immersive cinematic worlds (see "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Legend" and "Gladiator"). Scott's latest film, "Kingdom of Heaven," is no exception.

"The idea of doing a knight's film, a story about the Crusaders, has been an idea of mine for about 35 years," Scott says in an early morning call from his London office. But it was during a meeting with screenwriter William Monahan on a different project that it really got off the ground.

"We started to talk about the idea of the Crusades, which was really Bill's period," he says. "So we got together and the story started to build." It was Monahan who suggested the film center on the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the reign of Baldwin IV and Saladin, a Kurdish warrior who led an alliance against the Crusaders, and on a fictional young knight, Balian, played by rising star Orlando Bloom.

"Kingdom" is Bloom's first leading role, and 20th Century Fox is nervously placing its bets that he can open a film without Peter Jackson or Brad Pitt by his side. What made Scott think Bloom would be up for the task of headlining a $100 million production all by himself?

"That's my job," Scott says. "To spot someone I think is going to fly. And he's got whatever constitutes that 'it' thing. Orlando is great. He's a tough guy. He's very gifted and intelligent. What I liked about him is that he has a sort of interesting sensitivity that is good for the character. You can tell there is an element of innocence there. It's genuine."

Scott has been asked numerous times if the timing and subject matter of the film (Christian and Muslim armies fighting over Jerusalem) was influenced by the current U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. But he brought the subject up before I could even hint at it. "This was all primed, pre-locked and loaded before the new Gulf War," he says. "By the time we started to write, Afghanistan had started to happen, but the rest was yet to follow."

The film's message of religious tolerance is clear, though, and the Muslim army is portrayed more positively than you'd expect. This is very unlike the portrayal of French crusader Baron Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas), who causes trouble for our hero and is clearly one of the film's major villains.

Yet the strengths of "Kingdom of Heaven" are its beautifully shot battle scenes and a sense of scope that clearly dwarfs last year's historical dramas "Troy" and "Alexander." But with those disappointments still in moviegoer's minds, why should they take another voyage back in time?

"Because I made 'Gladiator,' 'Alien' and 'Black Hawk Down,'" Scott says with utmost confidence. "I think that on historical, fact-based subjects, I'll take you down into that world and you'll come out having experienced something you hadn't before."

We'll Always Have Paris...
by Gregory Ellwood

Sitting next to Paris Hilton as she met the press to discuss her role in "House of Wax," I had an epiphany. As Ms. Hilton spoke -- wearing her trademark pink jogging outfit and accompanied by a throng of publicists -- it dawned on me that sometimes it's best for a celebrity to be heard with absolutely zero editorial input. So, filter-free, here is Ms. Paris Hilton in her own "hot" words...

Why she chose "House of Wax":
"I didn't even read it just because ['Matrix' producer Joel Silver] called and I was like, 'O.K.' And then he sent me the script and I read it and I really liked it. And then he sent me the director's reel and he did some really cool, like, beer commercial in Japan with Brad Pitt dancing. It was really hot. And I was like, 'This guy is a good director and it's Joel Silver' so I knew it would be a winner."

How she would describe her strip scene:
"Really hot. I was so nervous to do that. When you're going to see your body really huge it's scary, but it looks really good."

On getting a face cast for her body double:
"I hated it. They had to put straws in my nose and my mouth. I couldn't breathe. It was so scary."

Her acting regimen:
"I have been doing Meisner's for three-and-a-half years. But since I was in first grade I've always done every single play and I've always been the lead. So, as a child I've always grown up wanting to act."

On her next movie, "Bottoms Up":
"I play Alicia Mancini who is, like, this Italian girl, and her father is the head of a movie studio. And all this stuff happens and people think she's going to be stuck-up and spoiled, but they find out she runs her own homeless shelter and she does all these nice things and she's sweet and cute."

Her inspiration:
"I love Marilyn Monroe. I think she was the coolest blonde. I think like me she just didn't care what anyone thinks. She's happy. She's smiling. I don't know, I just always thought she was so beautiful and she just seemed, like, magical."

Her dream movie project:
"I really, really, really, really want to do a movie with the Farrelly brothers. I have seen 'There's Something About Mary' so many times. I just watched it last night and it's so funny. All their movies are so good. So I'd really love to do something with them."

Worried about overexposure?
"No, with me I'm a brand and that's how I think. I'm not categorized as one thing and I don't know ... people love it. I always wanted to build a brand. Like Barbie is a brand and I knew I could be like that. American princess. I love Princess Diana and beautiful people to look up to."

On why she and Nicole Richie are no longer friends:
"I don't really want to talk about it. I just hope she's happy and healthy."

The lowdown on "The Simple Life 4":
"We are looking right now at Maui. They want to bring back the sexiness 'cuz we've been filming in, like, cold places. We've had to wear, like, pants all the time and they want bikinis and dresses again [laughs]."

Her favorite Hilton Hotel:
"There is this one in Honolulu, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, with penguins and flamingos and all these cool animals. I love animals and I get to go into their cage and hold them. It's fun."

On why her chain of nightclubs, "Club Paris," is "hot":
"'Cuz they are exclusive and I designed them so they are pink and hot and have pictures of me everywhere. David LaChapelle took them... they are really cool. And I just have the best crowd. All my friends will be there and I have been to so many clubs around the world so I know what the coolest elements are of a club so I put those all in one place. My one in Orlando is beautiful. It looks like a Princess's palace."

On Warner Bros. "See Paris Die" T-shirts to promote "House of Wax":
"At first I wasn't too keen on the idea [laughs]. But whatever, I can laugh at myself and I think it's one of the best scenes in the movie I think. Why not?"

"House of Wax" opens, like, nationwide May 13.

Lucas Glad to Leave Star Wars Behind
The Associated Press

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. -- A wilted monolith of establishment politics. An entrenched ruling class fearful of change. And one man who stealthily rebels from within, turning the system on its head and bending it to his will.

George Lucas' story is the benign reverse image of the palace coup engineered by the foul emperor of his "Star Wars" epic.

The emperor perverted a tired republic into a fascist state bearing the imprint of his boot heel, standard "Richard III" stuff for which history buff Lucas had many role models to study from ancient to modern times.

Lucas' accomplishments marked a one-of-a-kind revolution. He sneaked into a Hollywood that no longer had the verve or nerve to make the weird, giddy, goofy Saturday matinees of his youth. He found a lone patron among fainthearted studio executives willing to pony up cash for what was essentially an Arthurian sword-in-the-stone fantasy in space.

Then he went off and made the most rip-roaring blast of cinematic fun audiences had ever seen as 1977's "Star Wars" became the biggest box-office sensation of its time.

Where dollar signs twinkle, studios follow, and Hollywood has been lumbering behind Lucas ever since.

Science fiction and special effects suddenly were back in vogue, and over the ensuing 28 years, Lucas and his visual wizards have led filmmaking into a new age of virtual reality that made possible such effects extravaganzas as "Jurassic Park," "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

In the '70s, there was a "technological ceiling" over fantasy and science fiction films, even epics and period pieces, Lucas told The Associated Press in an interview at his sprawling Skywalker Ranch. "The tools weren't there," he said.

As television chipped away at theater business in the 1950s and '60s, studios folded up shop on the effects departments that helped create splashy historical adventures and otherworldly tales.

"It's like trying to paint pictures without brushes," Lucas said.

"Hey, I brought the brush back and said, `You know, there's a lot of things you can do with this thing. I think there's real power here.' And by bringing that back, I think that was the biggest effect.

"Because it allowed people to do all kinds of movies that were sort of restricted because they were too expensive. That's not to say special-effects movies aren't expensive, but they're much less expensive than if you tried to do it in the old-fashioned way and have 10,000 people out in the middle of the desert with catering cars and all the things you'd have to have."

Lucas — who turns 61 Saturday, just days before the May 19 debut of "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith," the final chapter in his six-film saga — never set out to be a Hollywood pioneer, a sci-fi maven or even a populist filmmaker.

A star pupil at the University of Southern California film school in the 1960s, Lucas adapted a short student flick he made into his feature debut with 1971's "THX 1138," the first film from buddy Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope outfit, a failed experiment meant to give young industry lions the freedom to make movies their way.

Starring Robert Duvall in a dark satire on consumerism and dehumanization, "THX 1138" baffled distributor Warner Bros., which dumped the abstract sci-fi drama into theaters. The film has gained cult status over the decades, largely because of Lucas' subsequent fame, but at the time, hardly anyone saw it.

Coppola challenged Lucas to try something light, so he followed with a comic drama based on his car-cruising days in the '50s and '60s.

With its ensemble cast and episodic story structure, "American Graffiti" was another puzzler for Hollywood. Yet its killer soundtrack, nostalgia factor and the appeal of such young stars as Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard caught the fancy of moviegoers, who turned it into a box-office smash.

Always figuring he would specialize in documentaries and strange art films, Lucas found himself with a narrow window of clout among Hollywood bankers. He decided to take one stab at a grand soundstage production with big sets and visuals while he had the chance.

Impressed with Lucas' youthful drive and his work on "American Graffiti," 20th Century Fox studio boss Alan Ladd Jr. decided to back the filmmaker's space opera about a farmboy named Luke Skywalker, a plucky princess named Leia, and a roguish pilot named Han Solo as they battled an evil galactic empire and black-cloaked villain Darth Vader.

"Star Wars" shot past Lucas pal Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" to become the colossus of the modern blockbuster era the two men helped usher in. Counting rereleases that include the 1997 special-edition version with added footage and effects, "Star Wars" still stands at No. 2 behind "Titanic" on the domestic box-office charts with $461 million.

Lucas said he originally envisioned a bigger story arc that revealed Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia to be the children of Darth Vader, who finds redemption in his last moments of life through the good heart of his son.

He scaled "Star Wars" back to tell only the first chapter of that chronicle. After the film succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, Lucas followed with "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."

In a stroke of blind fortune that now looks like the savviest business decision in Hollywood history, Lucas retained ownership of the films and merchandising.

Lucas was getting paid next to nothing upfront and had to beg 20th Century Fox for more money to get the special effects close to what he had imagined. Ownership of the franchise was a bone the studio tossed him, and Lucas figured he would use it to make T-shirts and posters to promote the movie.

At the time, sequel and merchandise rights were about as valuable as a bucket of sand on the desert planet Tatooine, but the combined bonanza from films, toys and other "Star Wars" products has made Lucas one of the richest men in show business.

"He would be the first to tell you, he had no idea," said Rick McCallum, Lucas' producing partner since TV's "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" in the early 1990s. "When you're getting nothing, you'll take anything ... He knew there were sci-fi exhibitions out there that 5,000 kids would go to, so the idea was to go to anything that had to do with science where people would lend themselves to science fiction, and he could sell them T-shirts."

The "Star Wars" movies allowed Lucas to build an empire that includes the visual-effects house Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound, which have driven moviemaking into the digital era. Lucas' THX system has become a gold standard for theater and home-entertainment audio.

Even Pixar Animation, the company behind the "Toy Story" movies, "Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles," was a Lucas offshoot he sold in the mid-1980s.

Spielberg and Lucas teamed with "Star Wars" co-star Harrison Ford for the swashbuckling "Indiana Jones" movies, the fourth installment of which they hope to begin shooting in 2006.

After Industrial Light & Magic's breakthrough with realistic digital dinosaurs on Spielberg's "Jurassic Park," Lucas realized computer animation would allow him to tweak his three "Star Wars" movies, adding scenes, effects and creatures impossible to produce in the '70s and '80s.

The special-edition releases helped persuade Lucas to go back and tell the backstory of how headstrong youth Anakin Skywalker transformed into malignant monster Darth Vader.

Episodes I and II, "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones," were hits, but they disappointed many fans who wanted to see a full-blown Vader from the outset. Instead, Lucas followed Anakin from precocious boyhood through his awkward teen years and a forbidden romance.

"Revenge of the Sith" finally takes Anakin to the dark side as Vader, whose fear of losing the love of his life leads him into a bloodbath against the Jedi knights who raised him.

Lucas is braced for fresh complaints about the final film, expecting many viewers to gripe that it's too dark, the ending too bleak.

"Half the people like the movies, the other half don't. There's nothing I can do about that," Lucas said. "Nobody is indifferent about them. Even the reviews, we get fantastic reviews or horrible reviews. There's no middle ground. Nobody's saying, `They're OK, I guess.'

"You can't really worry about it. I make the movie I feel I want to make, telling the story I want to tell, and how it gets received is how it gets received. At least it's my fault. It's totally mine. I don't have to have any excuses about it. I don't have to say, `The studio made me do this,' or `I know that was wrong, but I had to do it.' Whatever people don't like or they do like is my fault."

Millions of fans would love a third trilogy picking up after "Return of the Jedi," but Lucas said he has no story in mind and no intention of continuing the tale on the big screen.

The adventure will live on in an animated TV show and a live-action series Lucas has planned, set among minor characters from the films in the 20 years or so between the action of "Revenge of the Sith" and the original "Star Wars."

Lucas also hopes to release three-dimensional versions of all six movies in theaters starting a couple of years down the road. The 3-D editions would be created using new digital technology that adds depth perspective to two-dimensional film images.

Other than the new "Indiana Jones," the creator himself said he is done with big film productions. Lucas plans to go off and make the sort of artsy little films he would have been making all along if "Star Wars" had not taken off.

With money set aside to cover those film projects into his 70s, Lucas said he can do whatever he wants without worrying if his movies succeed or fail, toiling in comparative obscurity and happy to be free of "Star Wars."

"The analogy I can use is, it's like going away to college," Lucas said. "It's great to get out of the house. You miss your parents a little bit, but you get to see them at Thanksgiving. But it's great to be in college, great to be on your own. It's great to have a new life."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Dating with religious differences
By Margot Carmichael Lester

You attend religious services and observances regularly. Your new partner does not. Does this situation spell the end of your budding relationship, symbolize a gigantic hurdle to be gotten over, or create an opportunity to strengthen your bond? And how can you make the choice to take option number three when it’s so easy to fall into serious conflict over devotional differences?

The key is taking a positive and constructive approach. If you feel your partner’s decision not to attend services puts distance between the two of you, it probably will. But if you look at your differences with openness and curiosity and use them as an opportunity to understand each other better, you’ll be well on your way to feeling closer than ever.

Size up services vs. spirituality
Don’t be too quick to judge your partner’s choice. As with most complicated parts of our lives, there’s often more there than meets the eye. Rabbi Jan Goldstein of Los Angeles explains: “There are rituals in our lives (secular and religious); peak moments in our lives. Some may get them from observance, some from hiking on a mountain. But the ‘A-ha!’—the emotional high or meaningful sacred moment—is an experience of the soul. Both people need to make an effort to find and celebrate that experience and honor it.”

The bottom line: Focus more on your partner’s spirituality than on his or her attendance at religious services. “There are couples who find in each other’s differences the inspiration to grow as well as openness for enrichment,” Goldstein points out.

Talk it over
Start by assessing what spirituality means to you and your partner, counsels Les Parrott, author of Love Talk. Share what moves you, what rituals you observe, and look for common ground. He suggests these tips for having a successful discussion:
1. Clarify your beliefs by charting each other’s spiritual journeys and values.

2. Give up the idea of “conversion” dating (changing him or her after you marry).

3. Recognize whether your spirituality is one of the most important aspects of who you are and that it’s important to be with someone who shares it.

4. Talk about how you can respect each other when it comes to issues such as how to spend the holidays, interact with in-laws, and so on.
Blending and bonding
If you two have discussed all these facets of your relationship and are ready to move forward, consider ways to merge your spiritual traditions. Payal and Mario Cudio of Boston have dramatic religious differences. She’s Hindu; he’s Catholic.

“We probably began discussing our religious backgrounds as soon as we started talking about marriage,” Payal recalls. “We talked about how our religions were different and how that would play into our relationship and someday marriage and children.” By discussing these issues, they realized just how many of the same values they shared. “It is great to see the similarities between the two religions,” says Mario.

Knowing when it’s not going to work
But for some, there is no common ground. “That too is a gift,” Rabbi Goldstein says. “It lets you know pretty quickly this may not be the relationship you want to invest in.” Such is the case for Rosemarie Jaszka of Patterson, N.J., who’s decided to only date men who share her faith. “To date outside one's box means to cross over from many things you deem sacred to many things you never even considered sacred. I found that I was the most content when I dated men who really understood my opinions and decisions.”

Remembering the one key success secret
If you do decide to date someone who’s non-observant or of another faith, remember that it’s not about your giving up services, or your partner becoming an active member of your congregation. It’s about being together. After all, that’s why you’re dating in the first place.

North Carolina-based writer Margot Carmichael Lester once dated a boy who was so upset that she didn’t attend his church, he sent his priest to her dorm in an attempt to convert her. It didn’t work.

10 blind-date dos and don'ts
By Samantha Daniels

As a matchmaker, I not only set people up on carefully planned blind dates, I also coach them on being the best dater they can be. Over the years, I've helped thousands of couples make a connection. Here, I've culled my very best insider advice. My goal? To maximize your chances for blind-date success:

1. Do say yes to all the blind dates people offer to send you on. My grandmother always told me, "If you get invited, you go; you never know who you are going to meet." This has been my advice to people ever since. Even if your blind date doesn’t prove to be the One for you, you never know to whom that person could introduce you. One caveat: If you are simply burned out on blind dates, take a break; you'll come back to it a little while later feeling energized and excited for a new adventure.

2. Don't spend too much time on the phone before a blind date. It's better to have a brief, 5- to 10-minute conversation—just enough to create a foundation so you will feel comfortable on the actual date—then say good-bye. A long conversation will only cause you to create a lot of unrealistic expectations that the person will never be able to live up to. (When I send my clients out on their dates, I don’t allow them to talk on the phone at all beforehand for this very reason.)

3. Do go for drinks instead of dinner. Drinks are much less pressure. Dinner can feel daunting for a blind date because you have to make it through the entire meal before you can leave, whereas drinks can be brought to a close at any point. And keep in mind that if you are hitting it off, drinks can always turn into dinner or the scheduling of a second date. (The policy at my company is that the first date is always for drinks.)

4. Don't ask around about the person you are going out with. You are much better off going on the date and evaluating the person on your own than digging for gossip and other people's opinions.

5. Don't choose a place for the date where you know too many people or that is too trendy. It will be very distracting if you are in a place where you need to say hello to a lot of people or where you are more focused or “checking things out” than on your date. It is better to choose a quiet place where the two of you can have a nice conversation and focus on getting to know each other.

6. Do wear something that you feel comfortable and confident in; blind dates are nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about how you look. Your blind-date outfit does not need to be super-trendy or fancy; it's better to pick something that you believe you look terrific in so you’ll feel good about yourself.

7. Don't show up on the blind date with a fantasy of your perfect mate in your head, hoping you’ll hit the "jackpot"—because the real person will never be able to live up to that image. Try to get to know the person sitting in front of you and see if you could like him or her for who he or she really is.

8. Don't answer your cell phone every time it rings. You should turn your cell phone off when you arrive at the date. If you need to answer it for one very important call, you should tell your date this at the start of the date so that he or she won't think you’re being rude. On blind dates, people are judging you through a microscope even though they shouldn't be; don’t give them reason to think you are not worthy of a second date. For the same reason…

9. Don't be too sarcastic or tell off-color jokes. Remember that when you go on a blind date, the person sitting across the table from you has never met you before, so he or she doesn’t know your sense of humor or sarcasm. What might be funny to you or to people who know you well might prove to be insulting or off-putting to your date, who’s virtually a stranger at this point.

10. Do reschedule if you are in a bad mood that day; you are better off canceling at the last minute than going and being grumpy or sullen. Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, and blind dates are the ultimate "first impression" dates.