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Thursday, June 30, 2005

How to snag a major league baseball
Elliott Kalb / Special to

If there is anything that gets most sports fans excited, it's going to a major league baseball game. Is there anything more exciting that that? For many of us, it's getting something for free. We can combine giddiness when we get something gratis at a baseball game, like a baseball, for example.

I have to admit, despite attending hundreds of baseball games in my lifetime, I've never snagged a foul ball (closest: two rows away from a Danny Cater popup at Yankee Stadium when I was eleven years old; and ducking like a coward from a Darrell Evans liner in Tigers Stadium television booth in 1989).

When I now take my boys to baseball games, I cannot give them the life-lessons they so crave. At NBA games, for instance, teams often use air-guns to "shoot" out free T-shirts. No matter where his assigned seat is, 10-year old Wyatt instinctively darts to an aisle, gets into a Michael Strahan-like three-point stance, and rocks back and forth, awaiting the direction of the blasted tee-shirt (I have found a way to help him in this regard, as this is how he's served his dinner, as well). There is an art to everything, including desperate attempts to get things for free.

Are there any useful tips that I could find?

Zack Hample is the ultimate expert at snagging major league baseballs.

He's literally written the book on the subject (How to Snag Major League Baseballs: More than 100 Tested Tips that Really Work.) After speaking with Zack, and trying to get the picture of him in a bathtub surrounded by 800 baseballs out of my mind, I have decided to share his top ten tips for snagging a major league baseball.

1. Bring rosters of both teams.
It'll help you identify players by their uniform numbers so you can call out to them and ask for balls. You can get the rosters online at, then by selecting the teams from the pull-down menu and clicking "roster." Make sure to get the names and numbers of all the coaches, too.

2. Show up early for batting practice.
The stadium is less crowded. Security is less strict. The players are more accessible. Balls are constantly being hit and thrown into the stands. Try to get there before the gates open; so you'll have the whole place to yourself for a few minutes.

3. Bring a glove to the game.
Not only will you save yourself a trip to the first-aid room, but it will show the players that you're there to catch a ball.

Bring a glove, or a fishing net, to help snag a ball. (Linda Kaye / Associated Press)

4. Bring hats of both teams, and switch back and forth depending on who's on the field.
This is especially important for the visiting team. Players love to spot their "fans" on the road and reward them with baseballs.

5. Call players by their first names.
Speak loudly. Raise your voice an octave to sound younger. Always say "please." Most of the players speak English, but you'll impress the foreigners — maybe even make them laugh — if you know how to make a request in Spanish, Japanese, Korean, and Turkish. OK, so there are no Turks in Major League Baseball. The point is, there may be one day, and you should be ready!

6. The Glove Trick.
You need to find or invent some gizmo or gadget that you can lower on a string and pluck balls off the ground far below. Rules change from one stadium to another, so make sure that it's not illegal before you try it! And never use your gizmo when play is in action.

7. Be aware of the competition.
Don't stand next to a group of tall men with gloves. Don't stand next to a group of young kids. Players love to hand balls to little kids. (Zack also recommends not standing next to gorgeous women unless, of course, your goal has nothing to do with getting baseballs and everything to do with getting to first base.)

8. Location, location, location.
Zack warns not to get trapped. If you're sitting in the middle of a long row, you have no range. Stairs + aisle = range in all four directions.

9. Play the percentages.
Position yourself differently for lefties and righties. In batting practice, you won't see many opposite field home runs, so if you are in left field when a lefty comes up, move toward the foul pole and into foul territory. Then, hustle back when a right hander comes up. During the game, left handers hit foul tips to the 3rd base side, and righties hit balls to the 1st base side.

10. Pay attention to routines and habits and tendencies.
Get familiar with your local ballpark and the players on the home team. Which gate opens earliest? Who pulls the ball?

Hample just recently snagged his 2,500th major league baseball, a foul tip by Marlon Anderson this month. It's a record that may never be broken.

Of course, why any sane person would spend hours — not to mention a lot of money — trying to get a $10 baseball for free — does not make the most sense. Let's figure this out. Tickets to enough games to research gate-openings and outfielders habits have to come in around $1,000. Let's not quibble over $40 per person for baseball caps at every game (only $20 per person once the home team cap is purchased at the first game). Don't argue about a decent glove from a sporting goods store.

Look, research is research! But if you're going to dive head-first over railings to outrace other fans for a free t-shirt or baseball, maybe you and fanatics like you need to be amongst yourselves, instead of mixing with regular society.

If you follow these tips, you will not live with the three-decade regret of not knocking over a row of fans drinking soft drinks to gather in a Danny Cater foul ball.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Whither Winnie?

Winnie the Pooh This past week, two old friends of Winnie-the-Pooh died -- within just one day of each other. The news sent searches soaring up Buzz, and surely put the Hundred Acre Wood into a long, honey-less mourning.

Paul Winchell, the veteran actor who gave voice to Tigger, passed away last Friday. Winchell breathed life into many cartoon characters, among them Dick Dastardly of Wacky Races and the Smurfs' arch-villain Gargamel, but he's best known for his work as the irrepressible Tigger. Upon news of his death, A.A. Milne fans turned to the Search box en masse. Searches on Winchell shot from zero into the hundreds of thousands, and those looking for "Tigger" sent the striped guy bouncing, trouncing, flouncing, and pouncing up 71%.

Then, just one day later, John Fiedler, the voice of Tigger's chum Piglet, also passed away. Known for his high-pitched voice, Fiedler excelled on both stage and screen, but anyone who once was six will never forget his worried little pig. (Here we should note that most of the searches for both actors come from the far-from-six demographic of 34- to 55-year-olds.) Searches on Fiedler's name also soared, and "Piglet" jumped 115%. Even an entertainment rag more comfortable with starlets than piglets observed, "Somewhere Eeyore is even more glum than usual."

With Pooh Bear on our mind, we investigated the searches buzzing around the honey pot. He may be a bear of very little brain, but he exerts quite an influence; we see an astonishing number of Winnie-the-Pooh searches. The most popular run the gamut from pictures, wallpaper, and games to baby shower invitations, coloring pages, and diaper stackers. Not bad for a silly old bear -- even one missing some old friends.

Monkey Business

King Kong Kong! Kong! Kong! King Kong is bringing havoc to the jungles of Buzz thanks to its trailer's smashing debut. Of course, this isn't the first time the mighty Kong has roared onto the silver screen. The big lug made his debut in the beloved 1933 film and also lent his name to a campy '70s remake. Over the years he's duked it out with Godzilla (it ended in a draw) and weathered a rather insulting knockoff at the hands of A*P*E. And through it all, heartbreak has been the one constant. Poor Kong, he just can't resist a pretty lady with golden locks. Now with director Peter Jackson's version fast approaching, we felt a scorecard to help sort out the films' similarities and differences was in order. Can you feel the earth shake? Can you hear the blonde scream? Are you ready for the third incarnation of the eighth Wonder of the World?

Double Scoop of Searches

Ice Cream Eddie Cochran famously wrote that "there ain't no cure for the summertime blues." Well, we don't know if we've found a cure, but our highly attuned searchers have shown ice cream can salve a few wounds. There's no better way to beat the oppressive heat of summer than to indulge in some frosty relief. Our intrepid searchers agree, sending queries on "ice cream" up 25% over the weekend. We also spotted the Buzz scooping up a heaping helping of "homemade ice cream" (+58%), "ice cream recipes" (+65%), and "ice cream makers" (+73%). Whether you hand-crank your own ice cream or head to the supermarket for a pint of pure goodness, we know you're interested in the most popular flavors. Here's the dish on the top ice cream flavors in search...

Vanilla Ice Cream
Strawberry Ice Cream
Green Tea Ice Cream
Peach Ice Cream
Moon Pie Ice Cream
Avocado Ice Cream
Chocolate Ice Cream
Spumoni Ice Cream
Pineapple Ice Cream
Coffee Ice Cream

And if avocado cracking our top 10 wasn't weird enough for you, we offer these other oddities from ice cream searches...

Cryogenic Ice Cream
Cantaloupe Ice Cream
Licorice Ice Cream
Goat Milk Ice Cream
Pop Rocks Ice Cream

You Can Quote Us

"You had me at hello." -- Dorothy (Renee Zellweger) in Jerry Maguire
Napoleon Dynamite While that particular bit of hokum worked wonders on Kenny Chesney, it charmed more than country singers with a hankerin' for movie characters. The venerable American Film Institute lauded it as one of the 100 greatest movie quotes of all time -- #52, to be exact. AFI's recent announcement of their list along with a prime-time countdown of quotes sparked waves of buzz. Searches on AFI and American Film Institute both jumped over 500%, along with related spikes on "AFI Quotes," "AFI Top 100 Movie Lines," and "AFI Movie Quotes." We stacked up the movies that made AFI's top 10 against searches to see which classic was the buzziest (parentheses indicate the AFI rank)...

Star Wars (8) -- "May the Force be with you."
Wizard of Oz (4) -- "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
The Godfather (2) -- "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."
Gone With the Wind (1) -- "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Casablanca (5) -- "Here's looking at you, kid."
Taxi Driver (10) -- "You talking to me?"
All About Eve (9) -- "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."
On the Waterfront (3) -- "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am."
Sunset Blvd (7) -- "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."
Sudden Impact (6) -- "Go ahead, make my day."

While Dirty Harry might blast a hole in our list, a few films outside of the top 10 reaped the power of buzz. Soylent Green (+196%), Gladiator (+105%), and Clockwork Orange (+157%) all received a bounce thanks to cracking the AFI's top 100.

Which movies will be cracking the notable quotable list in 2105? Gosh! -- would you believe us if we told you "Tina, come get your ham!" might be on it? Napoleon Dynamite continues to rule searches on movie quotes and the film's cult fandom will likely make it a candidate for inclusion next time the AFI compiles its list. In the meantime, take a look at the top movie quote searches over the past week...

Napoleon Dynamite Quotes
The Notebook Quotes
Batman Begins Quotes
Anchorman Quotes
Hitch Quotes
Star Wars Quotes
Fight Club Quotes
Team America Quotes
Scarface Quotes
Pulp Fiction Quotes

The Wonderful World of Pranks

Tom Cruise (+102%) was the victim of a rather unimaginative prank this week when he was squirted with water right in the kisser. The incident, which occurred while the Cruiser chatted up his minions on the red carpet, sparked searches on "Tom Cruise prank" and "Tom Cruise water video." And while the star of War of the Worlds (+33%) was gracious enough to drop his complaint against the scofflaws, the incident did set our own devious minds into a dangerous groove. Do people use Search to plan pranks of their own?

Well, as we discovered, that's a pretty silly question. If people use the Web to do research on matters as trivial as their retirement investments or college education, then of course they use it to plan pranks, too. Mind you, we're not talking about unscrewing the top of the salt shaker -- we're talking about big, elaborate capers that involve faking one's own death and then jumping out of the casket just as Aunt Mildred is tearfully saying her final goodbyes. Something along those lines anyway.

So while we don't endorse doing anything that might get you into trouble with John Q. Law, we felt a guide to the possibilities might inspire you to bring that ol' whoopee cushion out of the closet. We've broken down the top "prank" searches for all you instigators itching to cause a little trouble this weekend. Read, go forth, and wreak havoc.

Computer Pranks -- downloadable programs or emails that will temporarily cause the victim's monitor to go haywire. Beware of spyware.
Office Pranks -- hiding a bowl full of smelly mayo in a coworker's drawer is a good way to assure you're the one who gets the promotion.
Senior Pranks -- often these high school antics turn into petty vandalism, but if done with class, they can turn a high schooler into a legend.
Phone Pranks -- "Hello, Mr. Corey Haim? I'm a producer on Spider-Man 3. Tobey's not working out. We'd love you for the role of Peter Parker."
Camp Pranks -- darn that rival camp for rich kids! Let's taint their water supply.
Harmless Pranks -- aka pranks that won't permanently alienate you from the potential victim/chump.
Sleepover Pranks -- tired are the damned. Fall asleep and it's open season all night long.
College Pranks -- many of the world's greatest pranksters hone their skills at the university level.
Wedding Pranks -- no set of nuptials would be complete without some mischief, but canceling the groom's honeymoon reservations might be a tad much.
Roommate Pranks -- aluminum everywhere. No, really. Everywhere.

Apparently Knowledge Is Free

Will children of the future read Wikipedia Brown? Will they research their school reports in editions of the Wikipedia Britannica? For some time now, we've watched Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia "written collaboratively by its readers," grow in size and popularity. Hundreds of thousands of "wikipedia" searches each day have pushed it into our top 300 movers. With a 19% spike yesterday and the recent confirmation that it is the second most-visited reference site on the Web (after -- well, the future looks wiki bright for this community-built resource. We got an idea of its mind-meld with popular culture when "Star Wars Wikipedia," "Scientology Wikipedia," and "Michael Jackson Wikipedia" all popped up in our search log over the past weeks.

Wiki, the software that powers Wikipedia and allows anyone to edit content, has also burst onto the scene, jumping 20% in Buzz yesterday. Everyone's excited, and corporate leaders everywhere are itching to, you know, leverage it for the ultimate hip factor. But when The L.A. Times forged into the wild world of wiki, it encountered the beastly side of mass participation. Last week, the paper announced its plan for "wikitorials." It was not going to be some old lady of newspaper writing, left behind by technology; it would allow web readers to "redo" editorials. However, after just a few days, the Times yanked this "experiment in opinion journalism." It seems that obscene material deluged the site. We have to admit it didn't surprise us -- anyone who has taken a gander at online message boards knows that things sometimes get out of control, especially where politics is concerned.

The Rules of the Game

Rules, rules, rules! Too many stinkin' rules! You must be at least 18 to enter. No outside beverages allowed. All bowlers must wear the proper footwear. Bah! Where does it all end? Certainly not in the Search box, that's for darn sure. Folks interested in doing things "the right way" keep searches going strong on rules for everything from Texas hold 'em to their 401(k).

In the spirit of coloring inside the lines, we've tracked down the Buzz's top "rule" searches. Remember to read them in order. And, just a warning -- if you continue to ignore our "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy, we will call security. Sorry, house rules.

Poker Rules -- try telling your fellow players that a pair of deuces beats a royal flush and odds are they'll pass a rule saying you're no longer invited to poker night.
Baseball Rules -- every try explaining this game? It's like rocket science, but with "balks."
Badminton Rules -- wait, a game that uses "shuttlecocks" actually has a rule book? Is this some sort of sick joke?
Volleyball Rules -- high fives aren't mandatory, but they may as well be.
Golf Rules -- possibly the only sport where the crowd is subject to as many rules as the players.
Chess Rules -- some pieces move one space at a time. Others only move diagonally. And the queen? She goes wherever she wants.
Tennis Rules -- there ought to be a rule against the umpire calling the match from beneath an umbrella while the players sweat in the hot sun.
Grammar Rules -- remember to never split your infinitive. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
Horseshoe Rules -- one sport of the few sports where "close counts."
Bowling Rules -- we don't care how many "practice rolls" you take, but please, for all our sakes, always wear socks with the rented shoes. That's one rule we actually support.

Puppy Love

Can you hear the panting? See the tiny tail wagging with anticipation? It's the time of year for puppies. How do we know? Well, searches tell us puppies are sniffing around the buzz. Queries on "puppies" are up 8% over the last week, pushing young dogs into our top 10 animal searches. In addition, we've seen spikes on both "puppy training" (+26%) and "puppies for sale" (+11%) -- which indicates interest in raising pups is on the rise. Surely we're not barking up the wrong tree when we fetch our top puppy searches over the last week...

Puppy Training
Puppy Names
Puppy Pictures
Puppy Finder
Puppy Care

If you have yet to adopt the dog of your dreams, you may want some advice about which breed is best. While we're in no position to recommend what pooch would fit your personality, we can tell you the top 20 breed searches over the past week...

Golden Retriever
Yorkshire Terrier
English Bulldog
Boston Terrier
Great Dane
Shih Tzu
Cocker Spaniel
Jack Russell
Border Collie
Bichon Frise

Feeling Flirtatious?
It may be a sly smile, a moment of subtle eye contact, or a simple flip of the hair. Whatever the method, the art of flirting can be tricky -- but when done right, the results can be spectacular. Those looking to create sparks with the opposite sex sent searches on "flirting" up 192% over the last week. Could it be warmer weather that's thawing frozen romantic reflexes? Those searching on flirting tended to be women -- two-thirds of queries came from the ladies. And judging from Buzz, flirting's not a sport for amateurs -- the bulk of flirting searches came from the 30-54 age bracket. Proof that you're never too old to engage in some romantic by-play with an acquaintance who strikes your fancy.

You may giggle or bat your eyelashes, but we're not satisfied with coy overtures. We've given in to your flirtatious advances and offer a few top flirty searches from the past week...

Signs of Flirting
How to Flirt
Flirting Tips
Flirty Quotes
Daily Flirt
Cute Flirty Quotes
Flirting Tips for Men
How to Flirt With Men
Flirting Body Language

Nickname Nightmare
Bennifer!? When celebrity love strikes, buzz follows. The latest execrable trend in high-profile relationships is to apply a "cute" nickname to the couple. These disturbing monikers have wormed their way into search over the last year or so, and it's time we called them out. Trickling from tabloids into the mainstream media, it's time to stop the madness. Or we're going to cancel our Enquirer and Star subscriptions -- and this time it's serious.

Tracing this repellent trend back, we turn first to a person not part of a couple. In fact, buzz on tabloid-derived names began with one of the most infamous single men in America -- Michael Jackson (+126%). In order to fit his name onto more covers, tabloid headline writers resorted to a name that lent itself to plenty of 48-point permutations -- Jacko. Searches on "Jacko" did go wacko following his acquittal last week, and queries on "Wacko Jacko" surged.

The trend took a disturbing turn with the omnipresent Bennifer. This overexposed handle was applied to the pairing of Ben Affleck (+14%) and Jennifer Lopez, and became shorthand for the celeb couple. Searches on "Bennifer" have gone the way of the Gigli-crossed lovers, despite half-hearted attempts to revive it for Affleck's current romance with Alias star Jennifer Garner (+5%). Similar to a joke that falls flat upon retelling, Bennifer quickly became as irritating as Lopez's singing career.

We hoped the trend to blend would end there. We really did. Alas, the American public wanted more, so in the last couple of months the dreadful Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) and the even more odious Tomkat (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) entered our lives. Searches on Brangelina outpace Tomkat by a 2-to-1 margin. But with Brad and Angelina denying a romance, while Tom and Katie do everything they can to affirm they're in l-o-v-e, we expect Tomkat will surpass Brangelina ASAP.

Let's hope the buzz-worthy naming trend dies with Tomkat. If not, we're holding out hope for searches on nicknames we'd like to see -- Shakibo (Shakira and Bo Bice) or Lindinem (Lindsay Lohan and Eminem). Now wouldn't that be wacko?

Ten things that you can do to raise a happy person.
By Lorraine Glennon

Ask any expectant or new mother about her aspirations for her baby and almost invariably she will say something along the lines of "I just want my child to be happy."

As grown-ups, of course, we know that happiness is often elusive. And a sunny disposition may have as much to do with nature (the genetic hand we've been dealt) as with nurture (external circumstances). Even where the latter is concerned, experts are far more certain about what is not relevant (such as money) than what is. What happy people do have in common, say researchers who have studied the subject, are certain key characteristics, including a good sense of optimism, close family ties, good friends, a gift for empathizing with others, and the conviction that their life has meaning.

For a new parent, then, the burning question is "What can I do to increase the odds that my child will have these things?" Part of the answer is fairly obvious: Accept your child for who she is, not who you think she should be. Be attentive to her needs, take her fears seriously, and really listen when she speaks to you. Above all, make sure she knows that you love her without qualification.

But these principles, worthy as they are, are somewhat abstract. What a parent really wants is a concrete way to achieve these ends. While we can't offer a foolproof recipe for happiness, we have come up with a top-ten list of not-so-obvious ways to steer your child toward her place in the sun.

1. Tap into tradition.
Whether it's eating dinner together, observing birthdays and holidays, or reading bedtime stories every night, nothing is more valuable to your family than establishing rituals and traditions, says William Doherty, PhD, author of Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times (Sorin Books, 2000). Capital-T traditions -- lighting Sabbath candles or making Christmas cookies from a recipe passed down from your great-grandmother -- are important because they lend meaning to your child's life, reinforcing the bonds among family members and anchoring her to something beyond the purely temporal. Equally precious, however, are the small, seemingly inconsequential customs and rituals that are unique to your immediate family -- the fact that you order Chinese food on Friday nights, say, or compose a funny poem for your child's first day of school each year. The familiarity and predictability of these routines make a child feel safe.

2. Say it with a song.
Claims that listening to classical music will make your child smarter are greatly exaggerated, but there is no doubt about music's mood-altering qualities. In ancient times, music and musical instruments were believed to have powers that healed both the body and the mind. In modern times, countless teachers have documented the therapeutic effects of song (in one 1996 study at the University Hospitals of Cleveland, children who listened to "I've Been Working on the Railroad" while getting an inoculation felt less pain than those who didn't have music played for them). And most of us know from everyday experience that a great song lifts our spirits and eases stress. After all, it's pretty hard to be in a bad mood during a rollicking rendition of "Old McDonald Had a Farm," especially if the whole family joins in.

3. Be community minded.
Active participation in your community sends at least two important messages to your child. When you coach a Little League team, for example, or pitch in at your preschool's fund-raiser, your child realizes that what matters to her matters to you. And that gives her confidence a powerful boost. But on an even more fundamental level, your involvement underscores the value of community itself. It makes kids feel that they are part of a larger whole, and that individuals can affect others in a positive way. Not surprisingly, research has also found a strong correlation between altruism and happiness, so why not get your child involved in helping others? Take her along when you volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or join in a neighborhood cleanup. Even young kids can discover the satisfaction of giving back.

4. Curb your cynicism.
We live in an age of ironic detachment, so you may not always be aware of the corrosive effect your flip comments have on your child. Yet a cynical attitude can take a huge toll on your child's sense of security, a crucial component of happiness. Kids need to believe that the world is a good place and that people are basically decent. Never mind that you have concluded that your child's teacher is an idiot or that your elected officials are incompetent. When you voice these opinions, you undermine your child's faith in the people and the institutions around her. As a result, she may begin to view the world as a scary place.

5. Encourage your child's passions.
Happiness researchers agree that being truly absorbed in a challenging task is perhaps the surest route to happiness. Being completely caught up in an activity can be achieved through all sorts of endeavors, from stamp collecting to painting to automobile repair. That's why it's important to expose your child to a wide range of experiences to see what appeals to him. This is not, we hasten to point out, an endorsement of the frantic overscheduling that has befallen so many children. The idea is to make your child aware of all that's available, allowing him to gravitate toward one or two pursuits that are meaningful to him. Even if your child throws his intellectual and creative energy into what will almost certainly be a passing fancy -- collecting Pokemon cards, for instance, or playing basketball morning, noon, and night -- the ability to totally immerse himself in an activity he loves will give him a leg up on happiness throughout his life.

6. Raise a nature kid.
In today's high-tech world, most of us don't take enough time to enjoy Mother Nature. Yet an appreciation of the natural world, with its dazzling array of everyday miracles, nourishes us in innumerable ways. Nature engages all of a child's senses, encourages reflection and acute observation, and helps stimulate the recognition of a just and purposeful existence, says Colleen Cordes, a founder of the Alliance for Childhood based in Takoma Park, Maryland. In other words, the inherent order we see in nature gives rise to a similar feeling in us. The certainty that each year the snow will melt and make way for crocuses, and that the green leaves of summer will deepen into orange and brown, provides a vital antidote to the frenetic, high-tech world most of us inhabit.

7. Bring home a four-legged friend.
Deciding whether to get a pet can be tough for parents: The commitment of time and energy is huge and (your child's assurances to the contrary) most of the pet care will end up being your responsibility. Still, there's convincing evidence that taking it on is worth the effort. According to Gail F. Melson, author of Why the Wild Things Are: Animals in the Lives of Children (Harvard University Press, 2001), pets often provide reassurance when kids are worried and afraid. And kids absorb crucial lessons about empathy, loyalty, and attachment from the animals they love. Through nurturing pets and investing emotionally in them, children learn to care for and look after others, says Melson. In addition, pets make children feel valued and competent. Remember that a pet doesn't have to be a dog or a cat; guinea pigs, rabbits, and even small reptiles make lovely and relatively low-maintenance pets. If a pet is out of the question, your child can still get exposure to animals through visits to a zoo or nature center.

8. Make your house a home.
The advice to sharpen your housekeeping skills may seem trivial, but maintaining a pleasant domestic environment for your children is more important than you might think. If your house is disorganized or messy, kids are less likely to want to have friends over. Keeping things neat and in place give kids a feeling of peace and contentment. However, you don't want to turn into a compulsive neat-freak. Comfort is a big part of happiness, and kids need to feel free to run, jump, get dirty, and be occasional slobs in their own homes -- by themselves and with their playmates.

9. Serve happy meals.
As adults, most of us are aware that eating healthily, under pleasant, unhurried conditions, makes us feel better in both body and spirit. Children, though, rarely have that much insight into themselves. That's why it's up to parents to make mealtime a positive experience from an early age. That means turning off the TV, sitting down together as a family, and eating nutritious foods. The difference in kids' dispositions (not to mention their health) can be dramatic. In February 2003, ABC's Good Morning America reported on a secondary school in Appleton, Wisconsin, that saw its discipline problems plummet after it overhauled its lunchtime routine. Round tables replaced the standard rectangular ones in the cafeteria to create a more relaxed, convivial atmosphere, and the menu began featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads, and additive-free entrees instead of the standard pizza, soda, fries, and vending-machine junk. To the amazement of the school's principal, discipline and behavioral problems decreased dramatically after the new program was introduced. Just imagine how your kids will benefit if you do this same thing at home.

10. Get physical.
This advice cuts two ways. First, show your children lots of physical affection: hugs, kisses, back rubs, tummy tickles. Apart from demonstrating that you're crazy about them, touch has the power to relieve stress and elevate mood. Second, you get your kids moving. Whether it's because strenuous activity releases feel-good brain chemicals such as endorphins (as one of the most popular theories maintains) or simply because meeting a physical challenge confers a positive feeling of achievement, a mountain of research has established a link between regular exercise and psychological well-being. In addition, children who are physically fit have a more positive body image than those who are sedentary. Finally, it's just plain fun for kids to run, jump, swim, ride bikes, and play ball -- ideally, with you joining in. After all, isn't having fun the most basic definition of happiness?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Oprah's French Diss

Oprah Winfrey probably won't be gushing over any Hermès products on her next frenzied "Favorite Things" episode. The New York tabloids claim the talk-show mogul, whose product plugs can spell big bucks for lucky corporations, was treated in a rude and possibly racist manner while trying to spend some cash at the company's Paris store last week.

According to the New York Post, Oprah was barred from entering the chichi shop when employees failed to recognize her because of her less-than-fabulous 'do.

"Oprah didn't have her hair done," a spy relates to the paper. "When she tried the door, they refused her entry because they have been 'having a problem with North Africans lately' and obviously had no clue who she was."
A rep for the supposedly coif-challenged billionaire (she made $225 million last year alone) confirmed to the Post that Oprah was in Paris, but that's all.

The New York Daily News also weighed in on the incident, claiming the Hermès staff did ID Oprah -- and deliberately denied her admittance.

"They knew exactly who she was," an Oprah insider insists to the paper. "They specifically said, 'We know who you are.'"

According to the informant, Winfrey turned up at the swanky boutique shortly after closing (there were supposedly still some well-heeled shoppers inside) and "politely asked" if she could pop in and pick up a watch she had her eye on for Tina Turner, whom she was breaking bread with that night.

The paper says a sales clerk and a manager both refused to say "oui" to the woman who makes dreams come true (at least for Americans), a move that probably won't bode well for their future with the company.

"If it had been Celine Dion or Britney Spears or Barbra Streisand, there is no way they would not be let in that store," the spy rails to the News. "We are calling it Oprah's 'Crash' moment." (The pal is referring to the recently released ensemble drama about racism; Oprah, the paper points out, has not labeled the incident as such.)

The Big O, who recently shelled out for a dozen sought-after Hermès Birkin bags (the same spendy model Martha Stewart toted to court), later gave an earful to the company's U.S. prez, says the paper, telling him she would be taking her business elsewhere. She also canceled an order she had recently placed for yet another pricey purse.

And in news that could spell financial disaster for the upscale firm, the paper says Winfrey is considering sharing the snub with her multitudes of oh-so-loyal viewers.

Not surprisingly, Hermès has gone into damage-control mode, issuing an apology while offering up its side of the story. "Hermès regrets not having been able to accommodate Ms. Winfrey and her team and to provide her with the service and care that Hermès strives to provide to each and every one of its customers worldwide," the store said in a statement (via CNN). "Hermès apologizes for any offense taken due to such circumstances." Winfrey, it says, arrived 15 minutes after closing and was rebuffed because "a private PR event was being set up inside." (Oh, the irony of turning away Oprah to aid public relations ...) The store says it has surveillance video that verifies its version of events.

As for the "North Africans" comment made to the Post, a company spokeswoman tells CNN says "there was never any discussion" about that and insists "the story is not true."

She adds that the firm's CEO has called Oprah's reps to explain what happened and to invite her (and her bottomless bank account) back to the store.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Did Tom propose right?
The Knot

When Tom Cruise announced his proposal to Katie Holmes (girlfriend of about two months) in Paris on Friday, the news left many female fans with broken hearts, and others thinking -- so soon?! Whirlwind romances aren't anything new in Tinseltown -- after all, Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee wed in 1995 after a four-day courtship -- but it certainly raises some questions: How soon is too soon? How could they really know? Is Tom guilty of a proposal faux pas? Read on for the five most common proposal mistakes.

1. Proposing prematurely
You've met someone who makes your toes curl and you're all ready to put up that white picket fence. Whoa, cowboy! Proposing when you're still in the dizzy stage -- before you've tackled some real relationship challenges, survived your beloved's every mood, and received unequivocal signs that she or he is ready to move full steam ahead -- may either scare your honey off altogether (at worst) or result in an awkward "No" (or, at best, a "Not yet").

2. It's not about you
Planning a proposal he or she will love is all about tailoring your approach to what will surprise and delight the person being asked, not what you envision to be the ideal scenario. Opposites often do attract, and if you are gregarious and your sweetie is very private, popping the question in front of a crowd may mortify her. You run the risk of her focus being on everyone staring at her, not the sparkly stone you're offering. (If you're not sure what type of proposal she'd prefer, reread mistake #1. Maybe you need to spend more time together!)

3. Too complicated
Attempt an elaborate proposal at your own risk. Like weddings and love itself, popping the question is far from an exact science. Is a plan that hinges on an event (or series of events) happening on cue worth the stress of obsessing? If something as simple as a traffic jam or rainstorm can totally ruin your plan, scrap it. Remember, you need to be relaxed and as "in the moment" as your soon-to-be fiance is.

4. Being too hard on yourself
This goes hand in hand with #3. Even the simplest proposals can veer off course. Our advice: Keep your plan loose and flexible. The ideal plan can be set in motion when the time feels perfectly right, that is, you're both in a good mood and feeling footloose and fancy-free. Guys who don't feel like carrying a ring around at all times, should remember this mantra: There is no such thing as a perfect proposal.

5. Forcing the issue
Last but not least, if he or she doesn't scream "YES!" right away or needs time to decide, don't turn into a sulking sop. This will not bode well for an acceptance, and you shouldn't guilt her or him into a lifetime commitment! If your sweetie is the cautious type, plan your proposal at the end of the night. If/when he or she asks for a deferment, you can gracefully and respectfully consent, then bid adieu so you don't have to continue the night together in tortured uncertainty. Of course, have a bottle of bubbly waiting in the wings should your beloved say, "Yes."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Murder of Emmett Till
The 49-year-old story of the crime and how it came to be told.
By Randy Sparkman

Till: murdered

Despite initial protests from Emmett Till's family, the Department of Justice earlier this month exhumed the remains of the black 14-year-old murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. At the time of the 1955 murder, Till's mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, made certain the case file crossed the desks of both President Dwight D. Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. It met with calculated indifference. Now, however, the Till case is one of a pair of decades-old civil rights crimes in which federal and state prosecutors are seeking a measure of justice. Eighty-year-old Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter June 21 for his role in the 1964 murders of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman in Philadelphia, Miss. Prosecutors in that case and in the Till investigation are encouraged by convictions in the last decade for the 1963 murder of NAACP official Medgar Evers and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., the same year.

The Justice Department opened the Till investigation chiefly because of the perseverance (until her death in 2003) of Till-Mobley, and the attention drawn to the case by filmmaker Keith Beauchamp's 2004 documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The film delved into rumors that as many as 10 people, black and white, were involved in the crime. Yet the story of Till's murder has never really been untold—key elements were revealed 49 years ago by William Bradford Huie, a maverick Alabama journalist, in an article in Look magazine.

Milam/Bryant: acquitted Huie talked to Roy Bryant, the husband of the woman

Till offended, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, soon after they'd been acquitted of the murder by an all-white jury. Their lawyer, J.J. Breland, accepted this offer from Huie: $3,000 for his clients and $1,000 to Breland's firm in exchange for the story of Till's kidnapping, beating, and murder. It's easy to understand why Bryant and Milam talked: They were immune from further prosecution for murder, and they needed the money. But why would Breland, a respected member of the Mississippi establishment, agree to expose the ugly story of this crime? And why did Huie, a Southerner himself, want to tell it?

Emmett Till came to the Delta from his home in Chicago to visit relatives in August 1955. In tumbledown Money, Miss., he had an unfortunate exchange with 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, who was minding the store where she and her husband sold sundries to black sharecroppers. The details of the encounter are debated. Whatever happened, Carolyn Bryant did not tell her husband, Roy, about it. But others did. Soon after, the sleeping teenager was dragged from his uncle's cotton-field house. Sheriff's deputies hauled Till's mangled and bloated corpse out of the Tallahatchie River three days later. Local authorities covered Till's body with lime, nailed his coffin shut, and tried for a quick, local funeral. Till's mother insisted her son's body be returned to Chicago for burial. Thousands filed by the open coffin, and Jet magazine published images of Till's grotesque corpse, sealing his place in the firmament of the civil rights movement.

William Bradford Huie arrived in Mississippi that October. At 45, Huie was a Southern Zelig. Huie was born in the town of Hartselle, Ala., and his exploits as a young reporter at the Birmingham Post got him hired in 1941 at the American Mercury, an iconoclastic monthly with the irreverence and wit of its founder, H.L. Mencken. When Huie became the Mercury's editor and publisher, after writing several best-sellers, his hires included William F. Buckley, Jr., then 26.

Huie is best remembered, however, as a civil rights reporter. His first article for the Mercury, about the electrocution of a black youth wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in Alabama, infuriated the white South. He came to the Till case fresh from being arrested for contempt of court in Florida, where a local judge tried to block his investigation into the story of Ruby McCollum, a black woman convicted of murdering her lover, a prominent white physician. Huie also figured prominently in the investigations of the murders of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman—he reportedly told the FBI where the three civil rights workers were buried—and of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. In both cases, his tactic of paying informants to talk caused him trouble. But his books (the one about Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman has an introduction by MLK) are classic accounts of the crimes.

But in 1955, Huie gained entrance to Breland's office as a sixth-generation Alabamian—a member of the lodge, from the lawyer's point of view. Huie told Breland he would not write his article about Milam and Bryant as a confession. He would simply state facts, including quotes, without saying how he came to know them. In order to protect themselves from their Mississippi neighbors and from being indicted for crimes for which they'd not yet been tried, the brothers would publicly continue to maintain their innocence. But they would sign a release that protected Huie from a libel suit. In addition to the cash payments, Milam, Bryant, and Breland's firm would each receive a significant percentage of future profits from any book or film that came out of Huie's article.

Curiously, Huie let Breland know that he planned to shame Mississippi. He had initially approached NAACP head Roy Wilkins with the idea for the story, hoping that Wilkins would fund the proposed payoff so Huie could write a book that would "lay bare every facet" of Mississippi's battle over race. When Wilkins turned him down, Huie struck a deal with Look. In a letter to Dan Mich, the magazine's managing editor, Huie recounted that he'd told Breland, "I don't like the hypocrisy in this case. I intend to write, step by step, hour by hour, the story of the abduction, torture, murder, and disposal of the body. I want to present the trial as the machinery for community approbation."

Breland, then 67, was a Princeton graduate and a leader in the Mississippi Citizens Council, a Main Street version of the Ku Klux Klan formed in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Breland had originally been reluctant to take on Milam and Bryant's defense. But he came to see the prosecution as an affront against Mississippi, another assault like Black Monday, as the day of the Brown ruling on desegregation was known across the South. By agreeing to Huie's interview request, Breland was putting the nation on notice: The ruling class in Mississippi intended to see Brown repealed and was willing to use poor whites like Milam and Bryant to fight a war to that end.

Breland agreed to Huie's terms. "They're peckerwoods," he said of Milam and Bryant, according to accounts of the conversation in Huie's private correspondence. "But, hell, we've got to have our Milams to fight our wars and keep our niggahs in line … there ain't gonna be no integration … there ain't gonna be no nigger votin'. And the sooner everybody in this country realizes it the better. If any more pressure is put on us, the Tallahatchie won't hold all the niggers that'll be thrown into it."

Breland arranged a week of clandestine, nighttime meetings between Huie, Milam, and Roy and Carolyn Bryant. Frank Dean, Look's senior counsel, brought the money for the payoffs to Mississippi in a satchel. In a haze of cigarette smoke and profane justification, the brothers told their story. "Two long sessions with these bully-boys have been shattering," Huie wrote to Mich. "It's an amazing, indefensible murder—and much of our story will be in the cool, factual manner in which we let the facts indict the community. It will shake people in Mississippi."

Huie's "Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi" was published in January 1956. The article told the story of Till's murder from Milam and Bryant's point of view—a brutal tale of a beating that ended on the bank of the Tallahatchie River with a gun shot to the side of the head. The men portrayed Till as a sexually precocious youth who boasted of "having white women." Milam gave voice to the backed-in-a-corner rage of Southern white resistance. "What else could we do?" he said. "I like niggers—in their place—I know how to work 'em. But … they ain't gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he's tired o' livin'. I'm likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights. … I just made up my mind. 'Chicago boy,' I said, 'I'm tired of 'em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I'm going to make an example of you—just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.' "

Huie concluded his article by indicting Mississippi for failing to convict Milam and Bryant or condemn their actions. His piece caused a firestorm. Charles Diggs, a black congressman from Michigan, read it into the Congressional Record. The NAACP decried the article in public and promoted it in private. The Southern press called it "the false imaginings of a sensationalist." And Reader's Digest put it on 10 million coffee tables.

A half-century later, Huie's article leaves the newly opened investigation of Till's murder without an obvious, breathing villain. Edgar Ray Killen, like the killers of Medgar Evers and the bombers of the Birmingham church, deserves to be brought to trial, however belatedly. But the Till case is different. J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant died many years ago. So far, two surviving possible participants have emerged in the investigation: Henry Lee Loggins, 81, one of three African-Americans who worked for Milam and reportedly helped transport Till, witnessed his torment, and cleaned up the gore; and Carolyn Bryant Donham, 71, who may have waited in the car during the kidnapping. But if prosecutors decide to indict Loggins or Donham, will a Mississippi jury punish a field hand and a Southern wife who did as they were told—and would have felt they had no other choice?

William Bradford Huie's 1956 article won't help answer the lingering questions about who, if anyone, helped Milam and Bryant kill Emmett Till. His deal with the two men bound him to frame the story as they told it. Huie wrote privately of the risks and compromises of his agreement; he knew he would be criticized. But he got what he was after: an indictment of his own culture and the keepers of its flame.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The weirdest sports injuries ever
Elliott Kalb / Special to

Athletes get hurt in a variety of ways. Some get hurt on the playing field. Some get hurt in taxis. Some get hurt in their sleep. The dumbest injuries are often contract violations: skiing accidents, motorcycle accidents, hunting accidents.
And then there's Clint Barmes, the Rockies shortstop who recently saw his promising rookie season derailed when he broke his collarbone while carrying deer meat up the stairs in his apartment building.

But Barmes can rest easy (or at least as easy as someone with his left arm in a sling can). He didn't make the cut when it comes to the weirdest injuries in sports history.

But these guys did.

Guys who got burned — by themselves

1. John Smoltz irons his shirt in April of 1990.
Smoltz figured out a nifty way to save time. He ironed his own shirts, while wearing them. This worked out well, until he gave himself burns to his chest and blood stains to the polo shirt he was ironing. Smoltz said at the time, "I couldn't believe it. I've done it five or six times and never had that happen."

2. Marty Cordova gets a suntan in May of 2002.
Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova scorched his face in a tanning salon. He relaxed a little too much on a tanning bed. It's understandable. Ballplayers have way too few day games to work on their tans. In the old days, this never would have happened.

3. Bob Feller scalded in May of 1951.
Just so people don't think modern-day athletes have all the weird injuries, I've included Feller. A hose flew out of Feller's hands and threw scalding water on the lower half of his body. He suffered first and second degree burns on his torso and legs. The hose got away from him as he attempted to fill a whirlpool, to ease the pain of a lower back.

Guys who got frostbite — in August

4. Rickey Henderson in August, 1993.
Toronto left fielder Henderson missed three games with frostbite on his left foot following application of an icepack. Rickey, is it 20 minutes on, and three games off?

Taxicab confessions

5. Tom Glavine's five-minute cab ride from LaGuardia to Shea, 2004.
Glavine lost his two front upper teeth, and needed stitches for a cut lower lip. He was a passenger in an auto accident, traveling the short distance from Laguardia Airport to Shea Stadium. There is no truth to the rumor he quickly hailed a cab from Shea to catch up with a gopher ball he had thrown to a former Atlanta Braves teammate.

6. Brian Anderson's cab ride from hell, 1998.
They say left-handers have more accidents, but in taxis? Anderson, a career .500 pitcher then with the Diamondbacks, took a 20-minute cab ride to shop on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. He laid his pitching arm across the top of the backseat, and felt stiffness that night at the ballpark. He said the injury was the strangest of his career, forgetting about the time he burned his face with an iron in his hotel room.

You think it's easy celebrating a score in the NFL?

7. Gus Frerotte uses his head, 1997.
NFL players are always told that when they get to the end zone, to act like they've been there before. Well, Redskins quarterback Frerotte really did not know how to act after his third career rushing touchdown. After his late November one-yard touchdown run, Gus deliberately smacked his head against the stadium wall beyond the end zone. The $18 million dollar quarterback was taken to the hospital with neck pain, missing the second half of the most important game of the season (against the Giants) and was never really the same afterward. When Warner Brothers cartoon characters pull the same head-butt stunt, it's funny.

8. Bill Gramatica dances with joy following first quarter FG, 2001.
Okay, I almost understand a quarterback on the hot seat losing his mind following a touchdown against a division rival. Now, someone please explain this one to me: An Arizona Cardinals field goal kicker celebrates wildly following a 42-yard field goal put his team up 3-0. Gramatica hyper-extended his right leg and tore his ACL, putting him on injured reserve the rest of the season.

Bill Gramatica hurt his knee while celebrating a field goal. (Matt Campbell / Getty Images)

Of course, the hardest part of baseball is the team picture

9. Cal Ripken's streak gets jeopardized by posing for All-Star team photo, 1996.
At least, when you bat against Randy Johnson, you wear a protective helmet. When the league requires the All-Star team gather round for a photo, there's no protection in sight. Ripken broke his nose at the end of the pregame photo session when White Sox pitcher Roberto Hernandez lost his balance and swung his forearm back, striking Ripken.

It's not just happening in the States

10. Santiago Canizares puts on a little too much Aqua-Velva, 2002.
Spain's starting goalkeeper, 32-year old Canizares, was ruled out of the 2002 World Cup after he ruptured a tendon when a bottle of cologne fell on his foot. I've always said a little dab is good, but too much of that stuff is overpowering and harmful.

More wild and wacky injuries:

11. Vince Coleman gets run down by technology, 1985.
In the 1985 League Championship Series, he got rolled up by the automatic tarpaulin machine.

12. Brian Griese gets sacked by his own dog, 2002.
When then-Broncos quarterback Griese was walking down the stairs, his dog came barreling down after him and clipped him.

13. Kevin Mitchell injures himself vomiting, 1992.
Mariners outfielder Kevin Mitchell re-injured a muscle on his side while vomiting. When asked why he vomited, Mitchell said, "Sometimes, I just do that."

14. Sammy Sosa injures himself sneezing, 2004.
Sosa sprained a ligament in his back after a violent sneeze last season. It happened while sneezing and bending over in front of his locker. He sneezed to the truth.

15. Glenallen Hill had scary nightmare, 1990.
He spent two weeks on the disabled list due to cuts and scrapes he suffered during a nightmare about spiders. He hurt himself without ever waking during this incident. I heard about this, of course, on the Web.

Friday, June 10, 2005

New rodent discovered - on food stall

A new species of rodent has been discovered - for sale on a food stall in a market in south east Asia.

The rock rat - or kha-nyou - is unlike any rodent seen before by scientists, reports New Scientist.

It was spotted by conservation biologist Robert Timmins in the Khammouan region of Laos.

He said: "It was for sale on a table next to some vegetables. And I knew immediately it was something I had never seen before."

Timmins, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said locals prepare the rodent for eating by roasting it on a skewer.

Timmins and his team have subsequently trapped the animal with the help of local people, but have never seen it alive either in the wild or in the market.

The creature looks something like a cross between a large dark rat and a squirrel, but is actually more closely related to guinea pigs.

It is not closely related to any other rodents and researchers have had to create a whole new family, the Laonastidae, to accommodate it.

The last new mammal family was created in 1974 with the discovery of the bumblebee bat.

Dog saves man's leg

A man had his leg saved from amputation after his dog licked it better.

Mitch Bonham, 45, was told he would lose the limb after it began turning black following an accident while in the Royal Navy.

But then his Jack Russell Milo began to lick Mitch's leg for up to four hours a day.

When he returned to the doctor he told him it was healed reports The Sun.

Mitch, 45, from Barry, South Wales, believes the condition Sudeks Atrophy which affected his right leg up to the knee was caused by a broken toe he suffered when a heavy anchor chain fell on his foot.

Mitch said: "The consultant told me that in licking my leg for such long periods Milo had stimulated the nerves and helped the oxygen get into my leg.

"One day I felt my toe twitch. It was like the muscles in my leg were being reactivated - I had been told this could happen if my leg was getting better, but I couldn't let myself hope that it really was.

"When the consultant saw my leg again he said 'My God - what have you been doing?' He said it was incredible, my dog had saved my leg. Then he told me I didn't need to come back, just let Milo carry on doing what he did best and go back to my GP in future."

Mitch, a systems support engineer, added: "We had a celebration that night even though I had a long way to go. Milo had a big juicy bone as a thank you for what he had done."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Coolest TV Shows Not Yet On DVD
By Anne Hurley

It's criminal. Hollywood has finally figured out that DVD fans are just as rabid to collect TV series as they are films -- in some cases, more so (how many times will you happily watch a "Buffy" or "Friends" rerun, but who really wants to see "Schindler's List" more than once?). But because demand is far outstripping the DVD manufacturers' ability to crank out discs, the studios are having to pick and choose. And they're not always choosing right.

We've recently seen the non-awaited release of boxed sets like "Golden Girls," "Murder, She Wrote," and "Columbo"; "Quincy" is scheduled for June. (What, no "Matlock"?) Yet many prime baby-boom and Gen Y buyers' faves still haven't hit the shelves.

Here is a list, should studio execs happen to care what we think, of what are very possibly the Top 10 Coolest Shows Not on DVD -- and a few suggestions for shows to console yourself with while you're waiting.

"Hawaii Five-O"
One of the longest running cop shows ever (1968-1980), "Hawaii Five-O" featured an elite group of officers in paradise, answerable only to the governor, tackling an assortment of bad guys from local kingpins to international terrorists. Jack Lord was the tough Irish cop who barked, "Book 'em, Danno!" at the end of each show. The series had the coolest theme song in decades (by the journeyman composer Morton Stevens) and an interracial cast that was years ahead of its time.
Console yourself with: Maybe the early years of "Columbo" (because sadly, "The Streets of San Francisco" is also MIA), but only if you play the Stevens tune while you watch.

"St. Elsewhere"
Though the boxed set is available on VHS, it's high time this quality hospital drama hit disc. The scripts never wrote down to the audience, and that's what hooked viewers -- that, and the hard-working cast, and the unvarnished feel to the drama of saving lives. "ER" in its early seasons was a better show, but "St. Elsewhere" made it possible.
Console yourself with: The first three seasons of "ER."

"Hill Street Blues"
Produced by Steven Bochco way back in 1981, this is the cop show that paved the way for all the hard-edged procedurals dominating TV over the past decade, including "NYPD Blue" (also Bochco's baby) and the "Law & Order" permutations. The cast was stellar, the angst real (though the dialogue could be a little preachy). And it was a nice antidote to early '80s primetime fluff.
Console yourself with: "NYPD Blue" (only the first two seasons are available) and "Homicide: Life on the Street." And hey, let's be careful out there.

Who cares about the dreary, world-weary film Caped Crusaders of recent years? Crikey, you'd think saving the world was this huge burden or something. Riddle me this: Why hasn't Fox issued the mid-'60s campfest series on DVD? The ever-earnest Adam West, the sleek and snarly supporting cast (favorite bad guys: Julie Newmar as Catwoman and Cesar Romero as the Joker), the campy dialogue, the mod sets, the Holy Hyperbole of it all. You enjoyed it as a kid, you want to relive it as an adult. Is that so wrong?
Console yourself with: The documentary "Batman: Holy Batmania," which interviews many of the cast members, and offers a lot of trivia and background on the show. But it will only leave you wanting to see the real thing.

"Beverly Hills 90210" and "Melrose Place"
Paging Aaron Spelling! We're thrilled you've finally gotten "Charmed" into a release groove, but what about your bundles of joy from the early '90s? True, the pilot episode of "90210" is available, but that's it, and nothing at all of "Melrose Place." How else can we relive the pouty glory of pampered L.A. teens and twentysomethings, as they flirt and glower and chew up that expensive scenery?
Console yourself with: "Charmed," of course, but also "Dawson's Creek, "Party of Five," "Buffy" and, oh, I don't know, maybe "Dynasty," and, to get your Marcia Cross (psycho Kimberly) fix, don't miss ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

"WKRP in Cincinnati"
Sadly, there's little chance of this late '70s sitcom about an edgy FM radio station ever making it to disc. The problem: The rights to all the contemporary hits played on the show have become prohibitively expensive. Syndicated versions broadcast in the '90s, in fact, stripped all the original songs from the show, replacing them with generic studio music -- and because DJs often spoke over the music, and cracked wise in reference to the songs, voice doubles were hired to redo dialogue. What's up with that?
Console yourself with: Sorry, we can't be consoled; Johnny Fever, R.I.P.

"Twin Peaks," Season Two
The second season of David Lynch's creepy Northwest mystery series admittedly was not as gripping or cohesive as the first, which was released on DVD in September 2002. In fact, those of us who watched to the (very) bitter end became vaguely embarrassed to admit it, but still, we couldn't stop. So we're waiting for the opportunity to be aggravated and creeped out all over again. But apparently Artisan, which released the first season, lost the rights, so the fate of season two is in flux. There might be an answer at, but we didn't feel like paying to find out (!).
Console yourself with: Season one, natch. The series has aged well; the casting and acting are spot-on, the writing alternately crisp and languid, the cinematography and score haunting. (Pilot sold separately.) The episode in which Laura Palmer's psycho dad kills his niece, Maddie, is one of the most disturbing hours of horror fare ever, period. Shudder.

It's true, there are two "best of" DVDs from the seminal '60s sketch comedy show, but they feel random and thin. One assumes the studio had rights problems with so many cast members, including Lily Tomlin and a very young Goldie Hawn, and guest stars ranging from John Wayne (who read a poem: "The sky is blue. The grass is green. Get off your butts and join the Marines") to Milton Berle and President Nixon, lampooning himself. But we reserve the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award only for the full seasons, dear producers. Will we promise to buy the full sets? You bet your sweet bippy.
Console yourself with: I wish I could say the complete "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," but that's not available either. (Maybe they're still on that FBI enemies list.) So try either early seasons of Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" or, still funny but not as ground-breaking, "The Flip Wilson Show."

"Rockford Files"
As new generations of kids and twentysomethings discover the offbeat charms of James Garner's '70s private-eye series, it seems all the more criminal Universal hasn't hurried this into production. The show easily mixed action, drama, a lot of quirky humor, even romance, along with Garner's rumpled, deadpan charisma. (And P.S., where's Garner's just-as-enjoyable "Maverick"? Please don't make us watch that Mel Gibson movie again.)
Console yourself with: No TV character can compare to Jim Rockford, but Telly Savalas' "Kojak," with higher quotients of bravado and 'tude, holds up surprisingly well. Only season one is available.

"The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
Cashing in on the Cold War spy craze of the '60s, this ultra-cool series starred Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as hip mavericks out to save the world from the nuclear brink. "Mission: Impossible" (also MIA from DVD) had a cooler theme song, but "U.N.C.L.E." had the sex appeal. (The comic spy chops belonged to "Get Smart," also -- would you believe -- not on DVD.) The original "U.N.C.L.E." masters reportedly have not aged well and need refurbishing, but since Warner Bros. now has a movie remake on its slate, the re-release of the TV series can't be far behind. We hope.
Console yourself with: "MI-5" volumes one and two. A lot of Americans have missed this fabulous, gritty spy drama from the BBC (though it does run on the A&E network); you owe it to yourself to lose yourself in some of the best television writing out there.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The secrets to happy single-hood
By Anna Harris

We’re not breaking ground here—you’ve probably heard this adage from smug marrieds enough times to make your blood boil. But guess what…it’s true. “Being single gives you time to explore what makes you happy, which ultimately makes you a stronger, more well-rounded person…and a person new people want to be around,” says Sasha Cagan, author of cult phenomenon quirkyalone: a manifesto for uncompromising romantics. Here’s how to make it happen.

Step 1: Quiet the little voices.
Let’s face it, society constantly reminds people that you need to be paired up to be happy—to be a real grown-up. Just walk by any newsstand: No less than three out of five cover lines of women’s and men’s magazines promote sex or relationships, notes Rachna D. Jain, Psy.D., a life and relationship coach. “They can often make it seem that everyone’s involved in a really hot love affair except you,” she says.

So how can you tune out the static? Check your friends—are you hanging out with enough like-minded singletons? “Being with couples can often make it worse,” Jain says. “You may find yourself constantly comparing yourself to them.” And when Mom (or anyone else) asks for the millionth time why haven’t you settled down, be frank. Say, “I really appreciate that you want me to be happy. but your constant focus on how I’m not in a couple is not making me happy.” Enough said.

Step 2: Dig up the past.
To be truly happy as a single, you need to redefine yourself as single by choice, at least for now—someone who doesn’t just settle for anyone. Along your journey as a single person, you’ve probably had your fair share of groan-worthy relationships. Use that knowledge to your advantage and (re)discover all the ways it’s better to be single and happy than stuck in a rut with a dud. Need a memory refresh? Review your relationship history on paper. For each partner, list how long you two were together, what you liked and disliked about this person, and why it ended. If you only recall the good times (it happens), enlist some truth-seekers (a.k.a. your friends). Ask them to remind you of an unworthy boyfriend or girlfriend from your past. Soon enough, you’ll start to realize that it’s better to be free than, say, dating a freeloader.

Step 3: Work on a relationship…with yourself.
Being single is a great opportunity to grow as a person—to appreciate yourself and your idiosyncrasies. “Just like all the other relationships in your life—with your family, your friends—it takes a lot of work to maintain a relationship with yourself,” explains Judy Ford, author of Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled and Independent. “The more you know about yourself, the more you know the type of person you want to be with.”

But self-realization doesn’t always come easy. You can get started with a few simple writing exercises. “Journals help you delve deeper into your feelings,” Jain says. “Start writing about a hot-button topic, like the get-married pressure you’re getting from Mom. By taking the time to describe why something angers you, you’ll start to understand yourself and your motivations better.” Positive, focused writing can have the same effect: Try listing your life goals and when you want them to happen, regardless of whether you’re single or married. Finally, realize that happiness can come from places outside relationships: Creative projects, travel, your career. Need a kick-start? Jot down at least five things that make you happy every day.

Step 4: Celebrate your single-hood.
With new episodes of Sex and the City long gone, it seems that there’s an empty hole to fill—the one that glamorizes the single life. “Now all that’s left are shows like The Bachelor,” sighs Cagan. So create your own ways to celebrate single-hood and live it up! And remember, everything has a good side; you just have to learn how to spot it—or reframe it, as Jain notes. If sleeping alone at night triggers a sense of loneliness, respin the situation in your mind to realize the benefits (you can eat ice cream in bed, sleep diagonally, snooze, snore…you name it). Finally, make a list of 100 things that you would like to do by yourself—things you could never do if you had a boyfriend or girlfriend—and start doing them. “When you’re single, you can redecorate your place at any time, take off on the spur of the moment, even have the whole crossword puzzle to yourself!” Jain says.