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Monday, June 26, 2006

When pandering to the youth mystique is a mistake
By Nestor Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer

TIME WAS WHEN, TO BECOME a TV host, you had to be personable, intelligent, articulate, experienced, knowledgeable, charismatic and empathetic. Today, all you have to be is well-connected, dishy-looking and young.

What’s going on here? Our TV networks are pandering big time to the nation’s youth culture and market, because they are belatedly and thus over-eagerly heeding what demographers have been telling them for years: That the majority of Filipinos are young, so programs and TV personalities should be suited to the youth’s preferences, needs and expectations.

There’s some sense in that, but the trouble is, TV stations have reacted excessively in favor of the youth mystique, hence the current idolatry on the small tube toward anyone and anything youthful.

Thus, we witness the sad spectacle of raw teens who are given hosting duties that they fail to properly comply with.

Banking mostly on their youth, good looks, trendy clothes and hip spiels written on appropriately named “idiot boards” by other people, the tyro hosts look nervous and even terrified, speak in an anguished whisper or a croak, and read their spiels as though they were intoning their own death sentence.

They fail to understand that hosting is much more than being young, looking good and reading perky spiels.

Good TV hosts are supposed to draw the best out of their guests, to ask the key questions in viewers’ minds, to give a show character, scope and insight, and to make the program’s elements interesting and exciting for the viewing public.

TV hosts are supposed to forget about themselves, and to think only of their guests, viewers, and the major impact or insight that their show is supposed to project.

However, if you’re callow, shallow and nervous as heck, how could you possibly have the sense and sensibility to focus on those truly important objectives?

No, you just try to survive as best you can, without ending up with too much egg on your face.

These thoughts come to mind because we’ve recently had our fill of untalented young program “hosts” who have been bombing miserably on the tube, thus grievously compromising the effectivity of the shows assigned to them:

A teen starlet interviews a senior star about his decades-long career, and insults his guest with his abysmal ignorance.

Young “singing champions” host talent shows by simply reading spiels that all too predictably go, “Excited na ako sa show natin ngayong gabi—excited ka na ba?” “Excited rin ako, exciting talaga ang show natin ngayon!” (I’m really about this show tonight. Are you also excited?” “Yes, I am also excited. Isn’t this show exciting?”)

—Oh, please.

Trouble is, viewers don’t complain that they are being poorly served by these callow non-hosts, and by the studio executives who cavalierly transform them into “hosts” overnight. So, assert your right to intelligent and professional programming, and speak up!

As for the young “hosts” themselves, please realize that many of you are doing shoddy, shallow work, so prepare yourselves much more thoroughly before you dare to face the TV cameras again.

The face you save may be your own.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How to get your guy to dance
By Bob Strauss

It’s a stark fact of the dating world that the number of guys who know how to dance is inversely proportional to the number of gals who want to be twirled across a parquet floor—and that even among the guys who know how to dance, the number who actually want to dance (rather than, say, sit at the bar and watch the Mets game) is, John Travolta excepted, a relatively teensy fraction.

Why should this be so? Speaking on behalf of my fellow men, I'd say dancing in public is the most exposed thing a guy can do, short of hauling a mattress out to the nearest four-way intersection and engaging in you-know-what. But there are some subtle ways you can ease your guy out of his favorite armchair and onto a crowded dance floor. To wit:

Cater to his musical tastes.
“My husband is picky about the music he'll dance to,” says Py Kim Conant, author of Sex Secrets of an American Geisha. “It has to be 60's, 70's, or 80's rock-and-roll. I can dance to anything, so instead of waiting for his kind of music, I go out on the dance floor and dance alone or with a group of people. When he sees how much I enjoy dancing without him, he’s sure to make his move when they do start playing the Rolling Stones or the Bee Gees.”

Buy him a video game.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, your guy can now learn to dance without having to leave his 200-square-foot basement apartment. For example, the game Dance Dance Revolution (for PlayStation 2, Xbox and computer) comes with a dance pad that connects to his PC or game console and an assortment of bouncy pop and techno tunes. The person playing the game has to follow the footsteps to dance proficiency. If your boyfriend is the type who'd rather stay home and play Grand Theft Auto than squire you to the local club, this can be a good way to kill two virtual birds with one stone.

Go back to school.
Probably for the same reason they refuse to stop and ask for directions, many men are reluctant to admit that they simply don't know how to shake their booty. If you suspect this is the case, surprise your beau with an enrollment for two in a swing-dancing (or samba, or tango) class. Even if you were Miss Salsa 2002, pretending to pick up all the right moves at the same time that he does is a great way to soothe his prickly ego and coax him out to the local club.

Rent a movie.
Kathryn Alice, relationship coach and author of Love Will Find You, raves about the Will Smith movie Hitch as a get-up-and-get-dancing tool. “In one scene, Hitch, a dating coach, demonstrates the basic dance a guy can do so as not to look stupid. It's a kind of side-to-side rocking, with hands on your hips and elbows bent. It's a perfect illustration of how to get away with dancing when you don't really know how, and the movie also has a great message—that sometimes looking like a dork on the dance floor can be the best thing for your love life.”

Be careful what you wish for.
So your guy is schooled, groomed, and raring to go. Look out! He may be too eager to show off his not yet fully refined moves. “Once my boyfriend and I were at a New Year's dance, and there was this fantastic swing-dance couple out on the floor,” says Lisa from New York. “The crowd parted to watch their skill. My boyfriend decided to get a little crowd of his own going and did this odd dance, a cross between break dancing, tap dancing and an Irish jig. I could have sunk into the floor.”

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Where I found love’
By Lisa Cericola

If you're single, you've heard time and time again the saying that "love will find you when you least expect it." Some help, huh? As these real stories show, "meet cutes" don't just happen in movies—soul mates meet in weird and unexpected ways every day. So keep your eyes open and let these true stories be your inspiration.

Stormy weather leads to love
Artist Nicole Persley was thrilled when a major art show in Fort Lauderdale asked her to exhibit—and stymied when hurricane season shut down the area's shipping companies just as her paintings were being transported to the show. "I couldn't make the four-hour drive to pick up my pieces from where they were being held by the shipping company,” she says. Then a friend found a colleague, Randy, who could go fetch Nicole's paintings so she could participate in the exhibit. A few days later, Nicole was delighted when her paintings arrived—and even more thrilled by their escort. "As I watched Randy pull up my driveway in his Jeep, I felt star-struck because he's so good-looking," she laughs. "We realized we were checking each other out—I actually blushed." Afterward, Nicole initiated an email exchange with Randy. "He asked to see my art studio, and as I was explaining my painting technique, he gently kissed me on the back of my neck," she says. "One thing led to another, and we've been together ever since." Quite the artful way to meet... and Nicole and Randy's story shows that random meetings can lead to real romances.

Go ahead, help a tourist
After graduating from college seven years ago, Shane Krick of Truckee, CA, traveled through Europe with a friend. One morning in Paris, they stopped to help some lost-looking fellow tourists. "Susan and her traveling companion had forgotten their guidebooks and couldn't find their hotel," remembers Shane. He took an immediate shine to the twinkly-eyed American, and all four began sightseeing together. Soon, Susan and Shane headed out for some sight-seeing together. "We headed to the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of wine and plastic cups," he says. "Although I lived in Pennsylvania and she lived in California, I soon knew I had to be with her." A few nights before departing, Shane kissed Susan, and the sparks truly flew. After a seven-year bicoastal relationship, the two are now living in the same city and getting married next year. "And when people ask how we meet, we can honestly reply, 'On a street corner in Paris!'" he says. And their tale is proof that love can happen when you're on vacation, on a business trip—anytime, any place!

How romance and religion can mix
When Laurie Sue Brockaway turned 40, she left her journalism career to go to seminary school. Studying hard, she became almost nun-like—until she heard Vic, a class president, give a talk at an assembly. "The first time I heard him speak, I thought, 'Where can I find a guy like that?'" remembers the Queens, NY, resident. Soon she got to know the charismatic speaker through a series of coincidences. "For two years, we had fortuitous meetings in classes, in church." Then fate stepped in… via Vic's girlfriend! "I didn't know her well, but she called and said, 'I wanted to let you know that we broke up. Maybe you can comfort him?' Somehow she realized that we had a connection," recalls Brockaway. Laurie Sue and Vic's friendship continued to grow, blossoming into love one day when they visited a friend in the hospital together. "Our lives were so spiritually connected that it was easy," she says. "Our relationship was a long time in the making, but we've been married for eight years now." Turns out praying for love might just work!

Special (love) delivery
As a college student with a part-time job delivering pizzas in Columbus, OH, Beth Sanders was more interested in getting a decent tip than paying attention to her customers. But a certain customer kept ordering every Friday night and eventually broke the ice with Beth by asking her if she liked being a Domino's driver. Thinking she might get a cash bonus if she recruited a new driver, Beth started telling him all the perks of the job. "He finally stopped my sales pitch and said, 'I don't need a job; I just wanted to know if you wanted to go out to lunch.'" Beth paused and said, "Why not?" "It took me a little while to warm up to him on our first date, but after a great second date, I knew I had met Mr. Right," she says. "We'll be married 15 years next July. So I guess Domino's Pizza really delivers!"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Manila cops give list of safety tips to studes
By Margaux C. Ortiz

NEVER use your cellular phone in public places. Stay out of dark alleys. Call 117 during an emergency.

These were some of the safety tips contained in reading materials which Manila police have been giving out to students in the city so that they would know how to protect themselves from criminals.

Chief Supt. Pedro Bulaong, Manila Police District director, said his men have been distributing pamphlets and leaflets titled “Crime Safety Tips” to students since Monday, when classes resumed on all levels.

According to Bulaong, cell phone robbery and theft remained the most common complaint among students. To avoid becoming a victim, Bulaong said that “young people should refrain from using cell phones in public places or public utility vehicles such as jeepneys and FX megataxis.”

The pamphlet also said that parents should tell their children where they could go in case of emergencies. “An example of this would be a trusted neighbor’s house,” Bulaong said.

Children should also avoid dark alleys, wooded areas, overgrown shrubbery, vacant buildings and construction sites, according to the MPD pamphlet.

“Young students should take the safest routes to and from their schools, stores and friends’ houses,” Bulaong said, adding that children should always take the same route when going home from school.

Apart from making sure that their children know their full name, address and telephone number, parents should also teach their children to call 117 during emergencies. “Teach children to go to a clerk, security guard or police officer for help if they get lost in a mall, store or street,” the MPD chief said.

Bulaong had recently directed all his station commanders to reproduce the pamphlets and distribute them to students on the first day of classes. He also reminded students to text MPD message and send it to 700 PIT (700748) for immediate police action.

‘Dismantle or transfer billboards’
DPWH team to track down ‘unsafe’ signs

By Leila B. Salaverria, Tina G. Santos

OWNERS of billboards and advertising signs displayed alongside major thoroughfares nationwide should be ready to take down these structures or relocate them anytime soon for the public’s safety.

Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. of the Department of Public Works and Highways yesterday said the memorandum circular prohibiting the putting up of billboards within a 100-meter radius from the center of national roads could be released today.

The circular, issued by the department’s National Building Code Development Office, was still being reviewed yesterday by the DPWH’s legal department. “I hope to come up with an official circular tomorrow. Nevertheless, we have to make this announcement to give notice to those concerned that we will be taking action,” Ebdane said. He added that he has ordered his regional directors to immediately implement the circular upon its release.

NBCDO chief Emmanuel Cuntapay said earlier that billboards could distract motorists and cause road accidents.

They could also collapse and kill or injure people as well as destroy property.

DPWH teams will also be conducting technical inspections to determine which billboards or advertising structures are unsafe and need to be dismantled immediately.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, meanwhile, said the city government was drafting an ordinance that would regulate the display of billboards and other signs in the city. The mayor said they would also enforce a uniform size for all billboards in the city.

“The allowable size limit for billboards would only be 12 x 24 feet,” said Atienza, who added that he would also propose new rates for billboard displays.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Repentant robber returns cash, with interest

TOKYO - A Japanese man who robbed a post office returned more money than he stole and turned himself in after deciding to come clean for the sake of his girlfriend.

The 33-year-old stole 340,000 yen ($2,300) at knifepoint from a post office in western Tokyo in March. Ridden with guilt, he went back to the post office at the end of May and left 350,000 yen in an envelope on the counter before running off.

Sunday, he turned himself in to the police, Asahi TV reported. "I did the robbery because I was short of money," Asahi quoted the man, who works as a gardener, as saying.

"I didn't want to get arrested when I took the money back, but I talked to my girlfriend about it and thought I should clear things up quickly for her sake."

The Mainichi newspaper quoted the man as saying he gave an extra 10,000 yen back because he was sorry for what he had done.

A Tokyo police department spokesman said they were still discussing what to do with the extra cash.

Bulky man barely injured as car rolls over him

BERLIN - A 440 pound German man discovered that being overweight can be good for your health -- if you get run over by a car.

German police said the extra body mass prevented the 30-year-old man from suffering potentially fatal injuries when a Volkswagen Polo drove over him after he braked suddenly on his bicycle at a crossroads and fell off in front of the car.

"It certainly helped him in this case," said Sven-Marco Claus, a spokesman for police in the western town of Gifhorn on Monday. "Someone smaller would probably not have been so lucky."

The man dislocated his hip, which local doctors put back in place, but otherwise suffered only scratches and a bloody nose from the underside of the vehicle, police said.

Bulky man barely injured as car rolls over him

BERLIN - A 440 pound German man discovered that being overweight can be good for your health -- if you get run over by a car.

German police said the extra body mass prevented the 30-year-old man from suffering potentially fatal injuries when a Volkswagen Polo drove over him after he braked suddenly on his bicycle at a crossroads and fell off in front of the car.

"It certainly helped him in this case," said Sven-Marco Claus, a spokesman for police in the western town of Gifhorn on Monday. "Someone smaller would probably not have been so lucky."

The man dislocated his hip, which local doctors put back in place, but otherwise suffered only scratches and a bloody nose from the underside of the vehicle, police said.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Never Coming Home
What it's like to lose a son in the Iraq war.

By Zachary Barr, Andrew Lichtenstein, and Brian Storm

Never Coming Home is about the families of five young men killed in Iraq. Each day this week, Slate presents a short documentary that focuses on the bereavement of the parents, or in one case, a brother. This portrait of grief and sacrifice is brought to life through the use of still photography and the recorded voices of family members.

This project began in the summer of 2004, when audio producer Zachary Barr, photojournalist Andrew Lichtenstein, and producer Brian Storm conceived of a series that, in the style of Ken Burns, would leverage the power of still imagery and spoken word, allowing subjects to tell their own stories. Barr and Lichtenstein started traveling the country to report on the families of service members killed in Iraq. They are still documenting this story and have gathered material from nine families. Watch Never Coming Home.

Read the transcripts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Feed the Right Wolf
Spiritual advice to the graduating class of 2006.

By Marc Gellman
Special to Newsweek

June 6, 2006 - There is a food chain even among commencement speakers. The top rung is for high-profile presenters with heavy academic credentials at prestigious universities and colleges (Condoleezza Rice at Boston College). Below them are high-profile public officials (Hillary Clinton at Adelphi University). Further down are entertainers at any university wanting a laugh rather than a trite message (Ellen DeGeneres in her bathrobe at Tulane University). Below them are writers, and this is a shame because they give by far the best speeches—even when they don’t give them. The best commencement addresses I ever read were never delivered. One was written by Anna Quindlen for Villanova University (she cancelled before the ceremony to avoid student protesters, but her speech became the basis for a book). The other was attributed to Kurt Vonnegut at MIT, but as it turns out, he didn’t write it. An e-mail chain letter misattributed a newspaper column to Vonnegut. In any event, both pieces of writing were honest, not trite, and more than superficially helpful.

At the very bottom of the commencement food chain are the clergy guys and gals who are roped into giving the invocations at the beginning and the benediction at the end of the proceedings (unless somebody starts a legal proceeding to protest the violation of the separation clause of the First Amendment). On this bottom rung there are still distinctions to be made. The benedictors are even lower than the invokers. Actually the benedictors are even lower than the secretary who gives out and collects the caps and gowns because you can ignore the benediction, but if you don't return your cap and gown you get charged for it. The reason for all this is obvious. After the welcome speeches, the valedictory address, the class president's address, the honorary degree speeches, the thank-you speeches, the commencement address, and the handing out of diplomas, if the benediction is not really short, the mass anger of the graduates is so intense that they will not only kill you, they will kill your dog.

I was honored to be chosen to deliver the benediction at this year's commencement ceremony for Marymount College in Manhattan. It was held in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center and I was so moved to be on that stage that it truly took all my effort to avoid launching into an impromptu reprise of my last Yom Kippur's sermon.

The problem here is in speeches given by people who do not know the graduates and who live lives utterly disconnected from the lives of the graduates, with advice for a future that will touch the graduates in ways the speakers cannot begin to fathom and do not want to understand. Other than that it is a good idea. What should happen is that a coherent and supportive community of learning should hear from one of its own who will lift up the sacredness of that community and give thanks for the opportunity to have their lives pressed together for a few years. It is a time to sanctify a shared experience, not listen to a stranger speak of a completely alien life. At Marymount’s graduation, some kid who was popular, kind and funny spoke, and he totally connected even though all his jokes were insider humor and his delivery was fast, self-indulgent and garbled. He was great. Then I got up to give the benediction—all the while fearing for my life and my dog.

This is roughly what I said. I told a story that had come to me through the Internet or from my golfing buddies or from drinking with friends or maybe I even made it up—I am just not sure. It doesn't really matter because it is a good and brief story and it tells the truth that every graduate and every person needs to know. I was told that it is an old Cherokee legend, which is good because I love the legends of Native American culture. In fact in my tribe I am known as Big Whitefish. And, as they say among the stand-up benedictors in Vegas, it goes something like this …

An elder Cherokee chief took his grandchildren into the forest and sat them down and said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. This is a terrible fight and it is a fight between two wolves. One wolf is the wolf of fear, anger, arrogance and greed. The other wolf is the wolf of courage, kindness, humility and love.” The children were very quiet and listening to their grandfather with both their ears. He then said to them, “This same fight between the two wolves that is going on inside of me is going on inside of you, and inside every person.” They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked the chief, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?” He said quietly, “The one you feed.”

So to the graduating class of 2006 let me congratulate you, and let me beg you to feed the right wolf.

Indianapolis mourns slain family of 7
Priest urges mourners to seek comfort, not revenge, after family’s slaying

The Associated Press

Santos Flores wipes her face Wednesday while in front of the casket
of her niece, Flora Albarran, 22, before the start of a funeral for six
of the seven victims of last week's slayings in Indianapolis. Aj Mast / AP

INDIANAPOLIS - A priest urged mourners to seek comfort, not revenge, at a funeral Mass on Wednesday for three generations of a family shot to death during a robbery.

“Death is not the answer to death. It’s not going to bring these people back,” the Rev. Michael O’Mara told about 1,000 people who attended the funerals of Emma Valdez, her daughter, Flora Albarran, her son, Magno Albarran, and three children, ages 5 to 11.

The six and Alberto Covarrubias, 56, were shot in their east-side Indianapolis home on June 1. A funeral for Covarrubias was held Tuesday.

Two white caskets containing the bodies of Valdez, 46, and Flora Albarran, 22, were displayed at the downtown Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral. A gold casket held the body of 29-year-old Magno Albarran. And silver coffins held the children — Flora Albarran’s 5-year-old son, Luis; and Valdez and Covarrubia’s young sons Alberto, 11, and David, 8.

Jay Recker, a funeral director with Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers in Indianapolis, said the bodies would be returned to Guerrero state in Mexico for burial. Covarrubias was buried in Indianapolis on Tuesday.

Prosecutors planned to introduce formal charges later Wednesday against the two men arrested in the attack.

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said he would seek the death penalty against Desmond Turner, 28, who surrendered Saturday. He was still considering whether to seek the execution of Turner’s co-defendant, James Stewart, 30, who was arrested the day before. Brizzi has said he does not believe anyone else was directly involved.

Turner and Stewart each face seven counts of murder, seven counts of felony murder, seven counts of criminal confinement, one count of robbery and one count of burglary.

“Three children were executed as they were lying face down on mattresses,” Brizzi said. “I can’t think of anything more horrific.”

Brizzi attended Wednesday’s service with police Deputy Chief Tim Foley, other police commanders and legislators from the area.

“My heart goes out to the family,” Brizzi said. “Nothing we can do from here on out can bring their lives back.”

* Related story: Affidavit: Ind. victim drew gun before 7 slayings.

Beyond Bugs Bunny
The quest to find the perfect children's cartoon.

By Stephen Metcalf

She arrived in matching pink tank top and pink shorts, and, befitting her reputation as an insouciant princess, she was barefoot. A silky mop of blonde hair lay tossed across a not-uncomplicated brow. She studied me quizzically. This is a notoriously difficult profile subject, I reminded myself—easily bored, mood swings—and known to disarm you with an impish giggle. I dug in.

"I thought we'd play a game."

"What game?"

"It's called Journalist."

"How do you play Journalist?"

Insert your own joke here. I simply smiled.

"Let's start with an easy one. What is your favorite cartoon?"

"Charlie and Lola."

"I can't help noticing, you say that with a British accent. But you, yourself, are not British. Why?"

"Because I do a good British accent."

Great, I thought. Here we go.

"Where did you learn the British accent?"

"In school."

Already with the fibs.

"Are you sure you didn't learn it watching Charlie and Lola?"

"I did!"

Absolutely no conscience. They're just like celebrities, these 3-year-olds.

My daughter, so far as I can tell, is a fairly typical toddler. One minute she is heaven-sent, almost a caricature of a delightful and well-behaved child; the next, a howling gargoyle intent on separating me from my eyes. For the past year or so, I have been in search of television programming that is both age-appropriate and discouraging to her inner she-beast. This search has not been as easy as it might seem.

In selecting cartoons, one is faced with an uninviting (if very American) choice: insipidity or carnage. Each is famously represented by the two major producers of classic animation, the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. Walt Disney suffered a hardscrabble early life and had a blackguard for a father, and these, it has been speculated, inclined him to the treacle and escapism, the sinister innocence that now bears his name. Meanwhile, in the '30s, a set of smart alecks defected from Disney to Warner Bros., where they happened upon a magic combination: the direction of Chuck Jones, the music of Carl Stalling*, the voices of Mel Blanc, and the gag style of Tex Avery, behind a stable of characters (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd) we're still familiar with today. "The surprising facts about them," wrote the great film critic Manny Farber in 1943, "are the good ones are masterpieces, and the bad ones aren't a total loss."

Now, I am second to none in my admiration for Bugs Bunny. He is everything you want in a role-model for your child: arch, cowardly, gender-bending, and lascivious. But, no two ways about it, the cartoons he appears in can be shockingly violent. I wouldn't rate my sensibilities as overly delicate, but one sequence, in which a dog gets sucked into a vacuum cleaner whose hose then gets dipped into the red-hot embers of a fireplace, made me walk calmly to the TV and snap it off. If cartoons rate, with baseball, jazz, and Broadway musicals, as one of the great American art forms, I thought, surely there must be some that escape the Disney-WB dialectic?

In fact, there are. Max Fleischer was a mediocre businessman at best, notoriously bad at publicity, and once said, "I'm in the business of making cartoons, I'm not in the merchandising business," which is to get the economics of cartooning exactly wrong. But he was a genius when it came to animation. Fleischer was born in Austria in 1883 and emigrated with his parents to the States four years later. By 1919, Fleischer and his brother had created their own animation studio, where they invented the bouncing ball sing-along, the first sound cartoon (years before Disney's Steamboat Willie), and a series of original characters, the most famous of which is Betty Boop. It's hard to convey how distinctive Fleischer's best work is, as it captures qualities one doesn't associate with cartoons. Influenced by vaudeville, the classic Betty Boops are strangely vigorous, earthy, honest, but also fanciful, bordering on the surreal. (The New York Times got it right in 1919: "Mr Flesicher's work, by its wit of conception and skill of execution, makes the general run of animated cartoons seem dull and crude.")

While thankfully missing their sly drug references—to "smokey" and "cokie"—my daughter swoons along with the magical trippiness of the classic Fleischers (which are now available on DVD.) So, why isn't Fleischer as well-known as Disney or Chuck Jones? In 1930, Hollywood passed the so-called Hays Code, an attempt to elevate the moral standards of the film industry. In some sense, this was the moment that American childhood was handed over to Disney. Mickey, like most cartoon characters in the pre-code days, had been risqué. In his definitive history of cartoons, Leonard Maltin quotes The Motion Picture Herald of 1931: "Papas and mamas, especially mamas, have spoken vigorously to censor boards and elsewhere about what a devilish, naughty little mouse Mickey turned out to be." But he converted easily into the saucer-eyed innocent we know today. Fleischer was less successful: The code included a stricture against "suggestive dances," and Betty Boop was soon stripped of all her distinctive sauciness. And so the Disney Snow White, in which a virginal princess gets rewarded for her spotless virtue, won out over the Fleischer Snow White, in which a blithely sexualized princess (Boop) gets threatened with a beheading, enclosed in a coffin of ice, and listens while Koko the Clown belts out a killer version of "St. James Infirmary Blues." This version was made in 1933, the last year before the code was strictly enforced. Fleischer went on to animate Popeye and Superman, but he died impoverished in 1972, only 11 days after signing a contract to redistribute Betty Boop.

The code was aimed at sex, not violence. And so the path to insipidity and carnage had been laid out. For cartoons that escape the insipidity-carnage dialectic and are of a more recent vintage, my daughter and I have happened upon a series of blissfully sweet cartoons from England called Charlie and Lola, based on an equally delightful series of children's books by the graphic artist Lauren Child. Both have a distinctive look: simple, bold, black-line drawings, filled in with flat colors, on collage backgrounds. But their most notable quality is their whimsy. Charlie is a 7-year-old boy; Lola is his (very) little sister, who I'd guess is about 4. The TV series is voiced by children, and each episode involves a fairly simple problem in which Charlie exercises his wisdom and authority, which Lola undermines with her trademark cheek. A typical episode is "We Do Promise Honestly We Can Look After Your Dog," in which Lola and her schoolmate Lotta try to convince Charlie's friend Marv they can mind his dachshund Sizzles.

"Lola, do you know anything about dogs?" asks Charlie.

"Yes," says Lola, mildly exasperated. "I do. Everything."

"So do I," adds Lotta.

"We know that Sizzles is a very extremely very clever dog," says Lola

"What about tricks?" Lotta whispers in Lola's ear.

"We know he can do very good tricks."

"If he wanted, he could roll over."

"And jump over things."

"And walk on two legs."

"And dance."

"And speak English."

"Lotta," Lola concludes, "do you know, I think Sizzles can do really anything."

I have watched 24 episodes of this show (set your TiVos, it airs on the Disney channel in the United States) and have yet to hear one note that is cloying, sour, or otherwise dishonest. Its brilliance lies in capturing childhood instead of manipulating it: by which I mean, it neither panders to an adult's ideal of childhood innocence nor to a child's fantasy of adult mastery and power. The show is about, of all things, the practice of reasoning, or the giving and taking of explanations. Toddlers are people, after all, who lie only on the verge of fully understanding the prudential, moral, and ethical demands of life—they master a habit of asking "Why?" long before they understand what counts as a legitimately satisfying answer to a "why" question. "Hmm, this is going to be trickier than I thought," Charlie murmurs to himself when it becomes clear that Lola's favorite book (Beetles, Bugs and Butterflies) has been checked out of the library. And so Charlie treads a delicate balance between securing rote obedience through commands (shushing Lola because she is speaking loudly in a library) and instilling a respect for appropriate behavior through explanation. A balance that came home to me as my lovely interview subject, a smile spreading across her face, began to ram my hand repeatedly into my keyboard, screaming maniacally, "I'm helping you type! I'm helping you type!"

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The shadowy laws of Internet dating.

By Dahlia Lithwick

They are widows and married millionaires and Yalies. They are Christian nonsmokers and truckers and Republicans. And they all want to date you. Well, maybe not you. But someone you could pretend to be, with a little imagination and a working laptop.

Everybody is blond and skinny in cyberspace. And that can be a problem. Consider the number of marriages ending because one of the parties just met their one true love on Yahoo Personals. As one divorce lawyer recently told Lawyers USA: "A client will come in—man or woman—and say there's someone across the country I want to marry. When I ask them, 'Have you met at all?' the answer is, 'No, I just know this is my soul mate.' "

Some legislators and lawyers are clamoring for something to be done about the great abundance of fraud and heartbreak in the world of cyberlove. But really, how would that differ from trying to regulate what happens on the Love Boat?

The biggest problem with Internet dating is the snake oil. There is, for starters, the guy in Atlantic City who just pleaded guilty to 10 counts of wire fraud for scamming women around the country with fake Internet profiles. He'd tell women he met online that he needed money to move to their area, then spend it at the roulette table. There's the Arizona man who shelled out $2,000 for plane tickets to fly in a Russian beauty who had written to him, breathlessly, "Every time, when I reading your letter, my mood become well and my heart is knocking so strong!" She never showed. Or the guy in Australia who defrauded a bunch of elderly people of their money to transport his Internet "girlfriend," a "North American model," to Australia. She never showed, either. He's in jail. G'day, mate!

Lawsuits against Internet dating sites for false statements made by other customers have mostly gone nowhere, in part because Congress more or less immunized such Web sites from suit with the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which says the providers can't be held liable for the lies of third parties. That makes some sense. Why shoot the messenger? But a new crop of suits are being pressed by disgruntled customers angry not about false claims by third parties, but about false third parties allegedly created by the companies themselves. is defending a lawsuit over "date bait"—creating fake flirty e-mails to keep paying customers from canceling their accounts, as well as allegedly sending actual employees on dates to pose as members. And Yahoo Personals is defending a class-action suit for allegedly creating phony profiles to "generate interest, public trust and give the site a much more attractive and functional appearance." Both companies deny any wrongdoing.

Still, even in the wake of all the alleged fraud and abuse, efforts to regulate Web dating have been limited. In addition to the CDA, Congress last year enacted the Mail-Order Bride Business Act, which attempted to regulate the 200-plus mail-order bride services operating in this country. The purpose of the act is to protect foreign women from being stalked, abused, or held in the United States against their wishes. The law is already being challenged by angry wife-shoppers who feel that they should not be forced to disclose personal details (including past marriages, children, or alcohol-related offenses).

Beyond these federal efforts, a handful of states have also attempted to clamp down on fraud in Internet dating: New York has passed a consumer protection statute to regulate Internet dating sites. Proposals either being weighed or already passed in Texas, Virginia, Michigan, California, and Florida would mostly force online dating sites to tell their clients whether they perform criminal background checks on their members. These laws wouldn't actually require criminal background checks; they would just shame providers who don't perform them.

So, why, in a field so fraught with possibilities for crime and fraud and theft, has the Internet dating industry met with so little regulation? Partly because it works. According to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit research organization, 17 percent of online personals users said their efforts resulted in a long-term relationship or marriage. And 15 percent of American adults now say they know someone who has been in a long-term relationship or married someone they met online. Serious criminal complaints, on the other hand, are fairly rare.

Moreover, when it comes to Internet dating, there is a real possibility that the medium is actually by and large safer than singles' bars. Not only are the parties communicating in words, as opposed to pouts and leers, but, as a wonderful divorce attorney I know suggests, dating on the Web has caused the pendulum to swing back toward old-fashioned courting. According to James Fox Miller: "Couples who meet on the Internet are getting to know each other, bond emotionally, before taking off their clothes and hopping in the sack."

As with all things Internet, the policy tension here comes down to a clash of privacy interests. People really like dating in cyberspace in part because they can do it in the privacy of their homes. In return, they will forgo some privacy when they post photos of their lower-back tattoos on Most subscribers to online dating services are interested in these companies precisely because they afford tremendous privacy. Heavy regulation would mean that the blurry lines between reality, fantasy, and wishful thinking would be patrolled and enforced by cyberlove cops.

Most online dating services agree that there isn't really a problem anyhow; that most of their consumers are savvy enough to understand the rules, which aren't really all that different from the rules you'd have used at Studio 54 in 1975: Don't give out your last name or phone number, and assume that anyone who mentions their trust fund or a diamond mine is a liar. All of which hasn't precluded these companies from including, in their contracts, disclaimers making their clients aware that they are responsible for absolutely nothing that goes wrong, from fraud, to crime, to ugly flowers at the wedding.

When Congress enacted the CDA, it expressly stated that it sought "to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media [and] to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation." Congress could have written the same language and substituted "love" for "the Internet." Ultimately, both seem to flourish in the dark, nourished by half-mad illusion, and free from too much oversight.

The reason we aren't really regulating Internet dating sites, then, seems to be that the courts and Congress, the sites and their clients, pretty much all agree that love, like the Web, is inherently a mess of half-truth anyhow. It's probably just an accident that we in America are rewriting the laws of electronic love at the same moment that we are re-imagining the rules of modern war. But in both cases, it seems we are largely willing to stick to the ancient principle that, in either case, all is still fair.

Shiloh Jolie-Pitt: Donations, Diamonds and Domains
By Kat Giantis

Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt is little more than a week old, and already she's doing her part to make the world a better place. On Monday, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt confirmed that they plan to donate the sure-to-be bank-busting proceeds from the sought-after first snaps of their offspring to charity.

"While we celebrate the joy of the birth of our daughter, we recognize that two million babies born every year in the developing world die on the first day of their lives," the altruistic amours said in a statement. "These children can be saved, but only if governments around the world make it a priority."

Brangelina will offer the exclusive photos of the newest member of their family to Getty Images, which will then license them to deep-pocketed media outlets worldwide (it's been widely reported that People has the inside track on the North American rights to the pics, with a $5 million figure previously bandied about).

"The images are beautiful -- very intimate, casual and not Hollywood glitz," says Getty, as quoted by Australia's Daily Telegraph, which adds that the winning bidders will still need to get the thumbs-up from the PR-savvy parents.

According to the paper, there are six shots available, with the money going -- as expected -- to UNICEF, although the Jolie-Pitts have yet to announce which do-gooder agency will reap the benefits of their photogenic family unit.

Meanwhile, in other Shiloh news, she's learning two of life's most important lessons early on: If you're famous, people love to shower you with swanky swag, and diamonds are a girl's best friend.

TMZ reports a company called It's My Binky has sent the genetically gifted ankle-biter a custom white-gold pacifier covered with 278 pave-cut white diamonds.

The sucker is valued at $17,000, a sum that can go a long way in Namibia, where the family continues to nest at the impenetrable Burning Shores resort (by the by, Pitt's parents were snapped last week jetting into the country).

According to TMZ (via humanitarian organization CARE), the blinged-out binky could, among other charitable endeavors, send 283 girls to school for a year, feed 61,000 people for a day or 400 families for a month or fund 10,000 safe delivery packets, which are designed to aid pregnant women who don't have access to a hospital.

No word on what Brad and Angelina, who have already donated $315,000 to their protective host country, plan to do with the plush pacifier, other than keep it out of Shiloh's mouth. Seems it's not recommended for "actual use."

And finally, one day in the distant future, when Shiloh is old enough to explore the Internet, she can take comfort in knowing that while it may contain nekkid pictures of both her mom and dad (yes, dad, too), at least her name isn't being used for nefarious purposes.

Jolie, forward-thinking mom that she is, made sure her legal pitbulls immediately secured the URLs relating to the newest bundle of joy. Multiple combinations of the tot's endlessly deconstructed moniker, including, and, were grabbed shortly after her much-heralded arrival on May 27.

Siblings Maddox, 4, and Zahara, 16 months, have also had their respective domain names snapped up by Jolie's counsel. Not so lucky: the still unseen (suspiciously so, say some -- don't look at us) Suri Cruise, who, because of her parents' poor planning, is currently the subject of a creepy countdown clock to her 18th birthday (it currently stands at 6,526 days).

Crows the site, "With Tom Cruise as her father and Katie Holmes as her mother, it's not a question of whether or not Suri will be good looking, but rather how hot she'll really be!" Ew.

Keira's Expletive Explosion
By Kat Giantis

Keira Knightley may have nabbed an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the ladylike Elizabeth Bennett in "Pride & Prejudice," but off-screen she talks less like an upper-crust Jane Austen heroine and more like one of the cuss-happy kids from "South Park."

In a profanity-packed chat with Elle UK, the colorful British beauty, 21, spouts off on everything from her naughty homemade jewelry to her desire for a fuller, fleshier figure.

"It's funny, when you get more successful, people expect you to be a complete [British insult that rhymes with 'banker']," Keira explains to the magazine. "So it means that you overcompensate; you go, 'I promise, I'm not a [British insult that rhymes with 'banker'], really, I'm not ...'"

And to prove just how much she's not a, uh, "rhymes with banker," she reveals her hobby of creating bracelets for those nearest and dearest to her, on which she spells out her heartfelt sentiments with lettered beads.

"I put [very bad c-word]," Knightley laughs. "I did one for my brother that said [f-word plus British insult that rhymes with 'bank'] and I do [slang for the male anatomy combined with another word for 'noggin'], too."

The expletive-loving thespian also reveals her continued lack of self-esteem over her lithe 5-foot-8 figure (she admits she "hates" her legs). Her idea of perfection? The cleavage- and curve-heavy shapes of Scarlett Johansson and Kate Winslet.

"That kind of decadent flesh is absolutely beautiful," the sylphlike starlet says. "How sexy on a woman."

She admits she's "consciously" working on being "happy in her own skin," a process that involves a grueling regimen of carbo-loading, exercise avoidance and grape-based nightcaps.

"I'm trying to go, '[Bleep] it,' and have bowls of pasta or whatever makes me happy," explains Keira. "I haven't been to the gym since January and I'm drinking about half a bottle of wine a night. I'm not one of those people who's going to jog five miles every morning. [Bleep], you've got one life, live it."

She's also not one of those people who's going to worry about being told at the last minute to doff her duds -- hairy gams and all -- at a high-profile photo shoot.

"I thought, 'It's the cover of Vanity Fair. I'm 20, it's now or never,'" Keira says of posing in the buff with the aforementioned "decadent"-fleshed Scarlett. "I hadn't shaved my legs, but everyone was all right with that!"

She continues, "We had such a laugh. Scarlett's a sweetheart. I'm not completely comfortable with my body but I just thought, '[Bleep it].'"

When not turning the air blue with language that would make the cast of "Deadwood" blush, Knightley also attempts to clear up a few rumors that have been floating around.

She pooh-poohs talk that she's artificially plumped up her pouty lips, sighing, "You get letters saying, 'I can't believe you're condoning this,' and then you deny having them done and you get told off for lying. You just can't win."

The actress also laughs off chatter that she became high-maintenance on the set of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels after she got her Oscar nod, insisting, "They were all ripping the [bodily fluid that rhymes with 'hiss'] out of me. There was a running joke that I'd started saying no one was allowed to look me in the eye any more. It got reported in an American magazine as fact and my agent phoned up and said, 'Is everything all right on set?' ..."

Knightley, who is still hot and heavy with her "Pride & Prejudice" costar Rupert Friend, also illuminates the continuing conflict between her fame and her self-image, with the battles frequently being fought through her fashion choices.

"For work, I have to dress up. When I'm not working, I'll put a dress on and think, yeah, that looks great," she says. "But then I'll feel like a [male part of the anatomy combined with another word for 'noggin'] so I put my jeans on."

Teeth Whitening
by Rich Maloof
for MSN Health & Fitness

Want to improve your appearance with a brighter smile? Welcome to the new Great White Way.

All dental whiteners clean teeth with peroxide.

Whether you purchase strips over the counter in a pharmacy, answer an ad on late-night TV or have treatment in your dentist’s office, all the whitening agents are based on a peroxide solution. The solution cleans teeth with a bubbling action that removes stains trapped in your teeth’s enamel. Whitener types differ by strength of the peroxide solution and by delivery method.

Your dentist can help you choose the appropriate whitener.

Inexpensive over-the-counter products, such as whitening strips, have about a 4 percent peroxide solution and can whiten teeth by two or three shades. In the tray-and-gel solution, the dentist prepares a mouthpiece filled with gel for the patient to wear a few hours every night for about two weeks. This method has between 10 percent and 15 percent peroxide, and can get teeth whiter by about eight shades. Powerful whitening systems administered in the dentist’s office have a concentrated peroxide solution of about 35 percent. Over the course of a single hour-and-a-half treatment, teeth can be whitened by 12 to 14 shades.

So, someone who has quit smoking after 20 years and wants to whiten his teeth may need a more powerful solution than a young person with good dental hygiene who just wants her teeth a little brighter for a special occasion.

Whiteners do not wear down your enamel, nor do they actually color or bleach your teeth.

Tooth enamel is a crystal, like a diamond with many facets. Over time, stains collect between the facets and discolor the teeth. The peroxide cleans out the stains—it is not an acid that disintegrates the enamel. You can get as many treatments as you like (though beware of the blinding-smile effect, as described next).

Excessive treatment leads to an unnatural appearance.

Don’t go overboard with whitening. Your dentist can help determine what level and type of treatment is appropriate for you. The color resulting from too many treatments is unnatural. Let your pearly whites be pearly white, not Clorox white. When they say your teeth should have a healthy glow, they don’t mean glow in the dark.

Teeth become discolored not only from smoking but from what you eat and drink.

Coffee and tea are among the most common causes of tooth discoloration. The rule of thumb is that anything that ruins your tablecloth can stain your teeth: Think tomato sauce, blueberry pie, red wine.

If your teeth are discolored from the inside out, whitening may not be effective. Tetracycline is one culprit in discoloration. The antibiotic is often administered in children to fight ear infections, but repeated use can eventually change the shade of your teeth.

Patients with periodontal disease may be disappointed by the results of whitening.

Gum disease or periodontal disease can cause gums to recede, exposing the root surface and making the tooth look longer. The root surface does not whiten. Whitener will leave the tooth two-toned: It cleans the lower portion, but the area along the gum line remains dark.

Whitening products are generally safe.

The few known side effects include gum irritation, which is usually a result of an ill-fitting mold in the tray-and-gel solution, and cold sensitivity, which primarily affects people with gum disease. Occasionally, patients have cited allergic reactions to the peroxide agent or the preservatives in over-the-counter whiteners.

As with any oral treatment you’re considering, consult your dentist. She may tell you that you just need to brush more anyway.

Extreme Cube Makeover
By Laura Morsch, writer

With their tweed-like fabric walls, dull laminate desktops and harsh fluorescent lighting, it's hard to make a cube look anything but drab. It doesn't help that decorations are usually limited to colored file organizers, a calendar and a couple of photographs.

While it's hard to transform a cube into an aesthetic masterpiece, it's not impossible, as demonstrated by lifestyle and entertaining expert Kelley L. Moore in her book "Cube Chic: Take Your Office Space From Drab to Fab" (Quirk).

Moore takes a standard office cube, and transforms it more than 20 times into spaces that are so funky and cute the original cube is unrecognizable. The "nap cube" has blue corrugated paper with glittery stars for walls, a bed under the desk, and alarm clocks and a cereal dispenser as decorations. The "golf cube" is covered in Astroturf, with a leather golf bag as a trash can.

If your cube needs a serious makeover, consider some of these ideas from Moore's book:

Get wallpaper.
If you must be surrounded by three walls, why not make them fabulous? In Moore's "glam cube," the walls are adorned in lush damask wallpaper. In the "safari cube," the walls are covered in natural burlap and hung with rows of capiz shells.

To pep up your walls, cut the material to the right size and place a clear adhesive tape around the perimeter of your cube. Then, use hot glue to attach the wallpaper to the tape. That way you avoid any damage.

Refresh your desk.
Sure, your desk needs to be functional, but why not give it a little style? To make a "mod cube," Moore laid white vinyl over the desktop and placed a border around the edge. To create a "tiki cube," she covered the desk in a faux wood-grain oilcloth and attached table-length hula skirts around the edges.

Once you choose your new desktop material, cut it just a touch long, pull it taut and secure underneath the desk with duct tape.

Don't forget the floor.
There's no need to settle for that short gray carpeting. Moore bought corrugated paper printed with cobblestones, cut it into irregular shapes and secured it to the floor with double-sided tape and voila! A cobblestone path perfect for her "garden cube."

If you're not quite so crafty, consider buying a decorative rug or two to add a splash of color to your space.

Details, details, details!
The key to creating a cube that stands apart is creating a theme and sticking with it down to the very last detail. For example, in Moore's "rock cube," she even added a funky mouse pad.

If you don't have a lot of money to spend, even simple touches -- like coordinating your computer's wallpaper with your cube's theme -- can make a difference.

Cover your navel — God’s already checked it out
Priest invokes novel theology to keep belly buttons covered in his church


ROME - An Italian priest is resorting to some innovative theology to rid his church of young women's bare midriffs.

"God knew what your navel looked like even before you were born, so there is no need to expose it in church," commands a sign at the entrance to the church in Cinisello Balsamo.

Guards at major churches in Italy routinely keep out people wearing skimpy attire. But Father Felice says he resorted to the signs because his parish cannot afford guards to keep out the low-cut jeans and high-cut tops, newspapers reported Monday.

How bad do you have to go?
At some schools, it's bathroom breaks vs. grades

By Ian Shapira
Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Even though Daniel Thornton occasionally needed to go to the bathroom during his AP history course last year, he also needed a B on the midterm to maintain his grade. So he did what lots of students at Forest Park Senior High School in Woodbridge do in their Darwinian pursuit of academic success: Thornton endured a full bladder and instead hoarded his two restroom passes, which, unused, were worth six points of extra credit.

It was enough to bump the 18-year-old's midterm grade from a C-plus to a B.

"Occasionally it made days unpleasant, but I was just very careful. I would try to go in the five minutes beforehand or afterwards, between classes," said Thornton, who will graduate this month. "Some of my classmates definitely had a lot of trouble. People around me would fidget, especially girls."

Bladder control, especially in an era of 90-minute classes, is a vital skill in many Washington area high schools, where administrators often limit access to restrooms during class to reduce interruptions and quash potential mischief in areas without adult supervision.

Restrooms, of course, have been a choice milieu for school scofflaws since the advent of indoor plumbing. With school security a top priority, administrators have become vigilant enforcers as they try to block loitering, bullying or drug use in student restrooms.

At many schools, doors to boys and girls restrooms have been removed altogether. In Montgomery County's Montgomery Blair High School, students can see boys standing at urinals and girls entering and exiting stalls in the bathrooms near the front office.

Getting creative
Teachers have whipped up creative ways to minimize restroom visits during class. Some schools have an extra-credit incentive program, which is not universally embraced among parents or within academic circles. Although advocates say the passes -- which can be used for numerous destinations -- maximize classroom time, critics say it is unfair to give anyone an academic advantage based on something as unacademic as bathroom habits.

"What's the correlation between holding your urine and succeeding on a history test?" asked Kevin Barr, principal of Georgetown Day School, a private school in the District. "My basic assumption is always that kids need to be comfortable and safe to excel in the classroom."

The Spanish class Carol Wesley's 15-year-old daughter takes at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County offers hallway extra credit. Although Wesley sympathizes with teachers trying to maintain order, she said, "It's absurd to reward people for not taking care of simple human bodily functions when necessary."

Public schools in the District, Virginia and Maryland do not have systemwide policies about bathroom rules but leave it to individual schools or classroom teachers to decide. Many teachers opt for the simple and venerable hall pass, which has been around for decades. In that case, students carry a visible pass so hallway monitors can immediately tell that they are authorized to be out of class.

Other schools use a more archival approach to keep track of students and their bathroom habits: log sheets on which students must jot down the time they need to leave class and their destination. A teacher's initials are also needed.

The log sheets -- in a small agenda book given out at the beginning of the year -- help teachers check how often students use the restroom during class -- indicating which ones may be cadging a break. In one agenda book, the log sheet is euphemistically called the Hallway Passport.

Some students who use the log sheets prefer them because they don't have other people's germs and they're never scrounging for a pass. Other students, such as Samantha Mosquera at Forest Park, find the log absurd.

"Sometimes, I'll just go through the book, and I'll see how many times I've gone to the bathroom in the year, and I'm like, 'What the heck?' It's a lot," said Mosquera, 18, a senior on the crew team, who noted that she has to drink water all day to stay hydrated for her tough afternoon practices. "It should be like college, especially for seniors. We can vote. We can go to war. We should be able to pee whenever we want."

Changing behavior
Bathroom rules have become so ingrained in students' psyches that they affect hallway culture. With only five or so minutes between classes, students must make potentially life-altering decisions: Should I go, or should I flirt with my locker neighbor?

At Albert Einstein High School in Montgomery, students find any scrap piece of paper -- or a hand will suffice -- on which to sign a teacher's name and time. But Principal James Fernandez said he wants to order agenda books with log sheets for next year.

"The agenda books provide accountability," Fernandez said.

Sometimes a game of cloak and dagger ensues. At Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County, some students have gotten in trouble for swiping blank passes off of teachers' desks and forging teachers' signatures, said Robynne Prince, an assistant principal.

At other times, students get in trouble when they sneak off to a restroom nowhere near their class but within shouting distance to a friend in an another room. Recently, Prince caught a student in the cafeteria who had a pass for the restroom only.

"He said, 'Well I just stopped in to talk to someone,' so I followed him from table to table," she recalled. "I questioned him and said, 'What class do you belong to?' He said, 'English,' but that was on the second floor -- and we were on the first floor, so I know he passed three bathrooms."

That's why, at schools such as Forest Park in Prince William County and W.T. Woodson in Fairfax -- some teachers offer extra credit if students stay put. "It gets the students to plan ahead and organize. It's grown in popularity because teachers feel that it cuts down on disruptions," said Beverly Ellis, an AP history teacher at Forest Park. "I discourage them from leaving unless it's a real emergency. They've got to convince me."

For Daniel Thornton, one of Ellis's students, the system played a minor role in his success. He got a full tuition scholarship to Washington and Lee University. And this week, he expects to be named valedictorian.

Don’t be such a stick in the mud!
Man rescued after being stuck in Tennessee riverbank for more than a day

The Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A man stuck up to his waist in a muddy riverbank for more than a day was rescued Monday after he was spotted by a passing fisherman.

Rescuers said Anthony Hawkes was hunting squirrels along the banks of Loosahatchie River north of Memphis on Sunday when he got stuck, WMC-TV in Memphis reported.

He was spotted Monday by fisherman Sowann Chea, who tried to pull Hawkes out. Chea called for help and off-duty Shelby County firefighter Jeremy Havlik was among the first to respond.

"He's just worn out," Havlik told WMC-TV. "He hasn't eaten; he's been down there fighting that mud for 24 hours. He was physically exhausted."

Video shot by the television station's helicopter showed rescuers supported by tree limbs and ladders digging and pulling for several minutes to free Hawkes' lower body from the riverbank.

"I don't know how long he could have held out, but he wasn't coming out by himself," Havlik said.

Hawkes was hospitalized but did not have any serious injuries.

Usually, we save the punch for the reception
Bail conditions put wedding on hold after Colorado bride and groom brawl

The Associated Press

ASPEN, Colo. - This couple didn't even make it to the altar before police made them part.

Ali Aghili, 37, and Marney Hurst, 33, both of Boulder, were to be married Saturday night at the posh Little Nell Hotel.

Instead, they got into a fight the night before and police arrested them because both allegedly threw punches, said police Sgt. Steve Smith.

The wedding had to be called off because their $250 bond conditions required them to stay away from each other, Smith said. He said it took police three hours to sort out the incident.

The investigation began after police received a 911 call reporting one woman yelling at another. Police determined Hurst had been shouting at Aghili's sister, according to police reports.

Even ‘good’ dogs may bite; kids at highest risk
Nearly 5 million Americans are bitten each year, pediatricians report


More than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than half of all dog bite victims are younger than 14 years of age and 150,000 of these bites are serious enough to require a visit to the emergency department.

In observance of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is next week, the pediatricians group is trying to educate Americans on how to avoid being bitten by a dog.

“As pediatricians, we often see the harm inflicted when dogs bite children,” AAP president Dr. Eileen Ouellette said in a statement. “In addition to teaching children about safety — whether rollerblading or riding in a car — the AAP hopes families address safety around some of their furry friends.”

The AAP is working with the American Veterinary Medical Association to promote dog safety within families and communities. Its president Dr. Henry E. Chilers notes, “Any dog can bite if it feels threatened or is in pain.”

One way families can protect their children from dog bites is to do the homework before purchasing a family dog. Learn about the behaviors of different breeds. Which ones are good around children? A call to the local veterinarian might be helpful before picking out Fido.

It’s also important, according to experts, to socialize your pet — gradually expose your puppy to people and other animals to get him or her accustomed to social situations. They may be less apt to snap at people.

Training the dog is equally important. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between pet and pet owner, AAP notes. It’s best to avoid aggressive games with your dog, like wrestling or tug-of-war. Having the dog neutered or spayed will also decrease the likelihood of biting. It’s also important to keep current on the dog’s vaccinations.

The AAP says infants and small children should never be left alone with a dog and children should be taught to ask permission to pet someone’s dog and then avoid petting the dog’s face, head and tail. Dogs should not be “bothered” when sleeping, eating or caring for pups.

When a dog threatens, it’s best to remain calm and avoid eye contact with the animal. Stand still or back away slowly. If a dog knocks you down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.

Dog bites should be cleaned with soap and water and seen by a doctor, according to AAP. If possible, the dog’s veterinarian should be contacted to check for vaccination status.

Dog survives squirrel-chasing fall from cliff
Jack Russell terrier 'Pepe' rescued after darting off Pacific Palisades

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Pepe’s owner says if his dog has nine lives like a cat, he used up two of them on Tuesday.

The Jack Russell terrier darted over a beachside cliff in the Los Angeles area as he pursued a squirrel. After tumbling down the cliff, he landed next to the busy Pacific Coast Highway and just missed getting squished by a big rig.

A motorist quickly stopped and whistled for Pepe, who promptly hopped in the waiting Range Rover. The rescuer says Pepe jumped on her “lap and started licking” her.

But Pepe’s owner didn’t know about the rescue, so he hurried to the base of the cliff and started climbing up looking for his dog. Brandon McMillan ended up getting stuck as ground gave way below him and firefighters had to retrieve him.

Dog and owner have been reunited.

Owners win lawsuit after dog killed by python
Max the rat terrier attacked by giant pet snake in Florida
The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - The owners of a small dog killed by an 11-foot Burmese python were awarded $1,300 in the death of their pet.

A small claims court judge on Monday awarded Boynton Beach residents Wayne Vassello and Shana Lane the amount in damages and court costs.

Vassello was walking the pair's 8-pound rat terrier, Max, in February and let the dog off his leash near their apartment. A neighbor's pet python, Diamond, had gotten free and grabbed the dog by the head, wrapping several coils around him.

Vassello hit the snake with a golf club and got it to release the dog, but Max ran away and was found dead the next day with injuries consistent with constriction, according to a veterinarian.

The snake's owner argued in court that Vassello is partly to blame because he let Max off his leash and that he might have accidentally hit the dog with the golf club.

Vassello and Lane said Max was a part of the family: They set a place setting for him at Thanksgiving dinner, and he was to be the ring bearer at their wedding.

Rogue vet debarks neighbor's puppy
Vet says he thought dog was a stray when he altered vocal cords

The Associated Press

MUSKOGEE, Okla. - A woman has filed a complaint against her neighbor, a veterinarian who, without permission, neutered her 10-week-old puppy and surgically quieted his bark.

James Risch, the veterinarian, said he performed the procedures after he found the puppy barking on his porch and thought it was a stray.

"He maimed my puppy," Nancy Miller wrote in the complaint to the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. "This man is a menace to animals and should not be allowed to continue to practice."

She claims he took the dog from her fenced yard. He denies this.

He said he gave the puppy vaccinations, bathed it, treated it for ear mites, neutered it and performed a "simple procedure that reduces the volume of the bark but does not inhibit the dogs ability to bark." He said the procedure, which is performed on a dog's vocal cords, can make a stray more adaptable.

Risch wrote a letter of apology to the Millers, saying he did not talk to his wife or check around before he "impulsively took the stray pup from our front porch to the clinic.

"I admit my wrongdoing. I would like you to know that I have sought counseling to understand and correct my impulsive behavior."

Risch also wrote that he did not dislike the Millers' other dog, Phil, "but rather it is the barking at nothing that can be like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I have made progress recently and have been more able to tune out the barking."

Risch wrote that he had called another neighbor at 3 a.m. to complain of his barking dog.

Dr. Charles Helwig, executive director of the Oklahoma Veterinary Medical Association, said he is glad the puppy's owners contacted the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.

"It sounds like there definitely needs to be an investigation here," Helwig said.

The veterinary board declined to comment on the complaint.

When a new résumé just doesn’t seem sufficient
Jobless South Korean protests plight by climbing into pen with surly rhinos


SEOUL, South Korea - A South Korean man upset at not being able to find a job protested his plight by climbing into a zoo pen with a pair of rhinoceroses.

Police and zoo officials said on Monday that the man, identified only by his family name Lee, went to the zoo in the capital Seoul over the weekend and tried at first to draw attention to himself by breaking into an enclosure housing giraffes,

Zookeepers prevented him from climbing the fence of that enclosure, but he broke free and scaled the fence of a pen housing a pair of rhinos known for having a mean streak, the officials said.

Lee spent only a few moments with the rhinos and climbed a tree in the enclosure where he remained for about four hours, shouting out to visitors about how he had lost his job and other bad breaks in life, they said.

The zookeepers moved the animals into separate pens, officials said, before police and firefighters placed mattresses under the tree and persuaded Lee to come down.

"I jumped into the cage because I've become desperate after not having found a job for such a long time," a police officer quoted Lee as saying.

Police questioned Lee and released him.

Man tries to convert lions to Jesus, gets bitten
46-year-old leaps into den at Taipei Zoo, calls beasts to Christianity


An image taken from television shows a man being attacked by a lion after he crossed a barbed wire fence to "preach" to two of the animals at the Taipei Zoo on Wednesday.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A man leaped into a lion’s den at the Taipei Zoo on Wednesday to try to convert the king of beasts to Christianity, but was bitten in the leg for his efforts.

“Jesus will save you!” shouted the 46-year-old man at two African lions lounging under a tree a few meters away.

“Come bite me!” he said with both hands raised, television footage showed.

One of the lions, a large male with a shaggy mane, bit the man in his right leg before zoo workers drove it off with water hoses and tranquilizer guns.

Newspapers said that the lions had been fed earlier in the day, otherwise the man might have been more seriously hurt ... or worse.

And God said: Try staying out of the lion’s den
Lioness in Ukrainian zoo kills man who drops in invoking deity’s protection


KIEV, Ukraine - A man shouting that God would keep him safe was mauled to death by a lioness in the Kiev zoo after he crept into the animal's enclosure, a zoo official said Monday.

“The man shouted, ‘God will save me, if he exists,’ lowered himself by a rope into the enclosure, took his shoes off and went up to the lions,” the official said.

“A lioness went straight for him, knocked him down and severed his carotid artery.”

The incident on Sunday evening, when the zoo was packed with visitors, was the first of its kind at the attraction. Lions and tigers are kept in an "animal island" protected by thick concrete blocks.

Plot twist: Fake crime scene, real body
High school criminology class’s field trip turns bizarre when corpse turns up

The Associated Press

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Truth proved to be at least as strange as fiction for a high school criminology class investigating a fake crime scene after students discovered a real body on a field trip.

Teacher Sue Messenger has been planting fake skeletons with bullet holes and other evidence at mock crime scenes for more than 20 years to give her students a firsthand look at what crime scene investigators do.

"I think they kind of went into shock and disbelief, but also, you have to say it's completely bizarre," Messenger said. "I mean ... what are the odds that we would be out here?"

The discovery Monday at Fort Lauderdale's Holiday Park by 29 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School jolted the class.

"It was a good crash course," said student Juan Cantor, 15. "The first thing we thought was, 'That's a real good dummy she set up.'"

The body of the man, in his mid-50s, was not immediately identified. He appears to have died recently of natural causes, Fort Lauderdale police Sgt. Andy Pallen said.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Diversifiwebcomication: Maximize Your Business Potential

In the past decade, webcomics have evolved, for the most part, from a hobbyist activity to full-fledged businesses, some with complex revenue models, production schedules and even fulltime employees. It seems like dozens of articles each month emerge, studying and commenting on the "business" part of the industry, but for the most part they've been written by artists rather than, well, real businessmen. My real job is looking at what makes businesses work. Yes, there are differences from space to space, but bear with me; I know what I'm talking about.

There's no magic cure-all that fixes ailing businesses or makes startups successful, but there are a few concepts I'd point out to people if they weren't utilizing them. In this article, I want to cover the always-entertaining topic of…


You've heard the proverb, don't put all your eggs in one basket, right? It turns out there's something to that. I figured this would be a good topic to start with, since it covers a broad list of topics for which I'll go into more depth on each individually in this series of articles. In short, focusing on one revenue stream is not only risky, but it also impedes growth, confines your brand and in short, increases your chance for overall failure.

Diversification in the Real World

We're all familiar with Nintendo, right? It's a popular conception they "lost" the console wars with the Gamecube. Didn't they "lose" to the original Playstation too? Wait, why has their stock price doubled in the last three years then? In short, they didn't throw all their resources into their home consoles. They also happen to have these crazy-popular handheld systems called the Gameboy and Nintendo DS. In other words, they diversified so they wouldn't get burned on one revenue stream or the other (and let's not forget Pokemon).

That's a pretty simple example, with one successful business unit supporting a, well, less than successful business unit. I wouldn't, however, call that a particularly good application of diversification since A, both streams rely on the same industry to stay healthy and B, two to three revenue sources is still pretty risky. Things get a bit more complex (and effective) when you're dealing with multiple revenue streams across different verticals. For instance, look at General Electric. You may have a fridge or microwave with that logo slapped on the front, but they also have their own lines of consumer electronics, aircraft engines and even banks. What do these all have in common? Well, if you're diversifying to your fullest extent, just the GE brand. Plus, the more lines of business you're in, the more opportunities you can synergize one revenue stream with another. Looking at General Electric again, they can offer competitive financing options for their $1,200 washer-dryer combo using… hey! It's that pesky brand again, poking in with their interest rates and easy payment plans. The idea is that if GE is going to sell you an appliance, why not milk some more dough out of you with some other tangentially related services?


How do we apply the lessons of these multibillion dollar corporations to webcomics? Let's look at what options we have out there. Advertising? Merchandising? Conventions? Do all of them and call it a day, right? Well, yes, but it gets a little more complicated than that.

Don't forget that even within each revenue stream there should exist a healthy mix of clients or products.

Don't focus on just one thing or otherwise you put that whole wing of your operation at risk.
Merchandising? Order smaller quantities, but increase the mix. See what works and what doesn't. Don't limit yourself to one type of product -- people buy more than just shirts.

Advertising? Have multiple clients and branch out to advertisers that aren't necessarily competing with each other (it's difficult, I know). Look at other ways to apply advertising strategies. Have one of your advertising clients sponsor your booth at a show.

Syndication? Yes, it represents a very tiny amount of revenue, but it's consistent and represents something else to fall back on.

In addition to spreading risk, diversification has a side benefit of exposing your brand to a larger audience. It's just like Marketing 101. The broader your reach the more people you're gonna hit.
What about those magical "synergies" we were talking about earlier? It's not just some irritating corporate buzzword. It's a very real thing and it's use in webcomics is pretty simple. Have extra stock in your merchandise inventory? Create goodwill by sending product to your advertising clients. Doing an autograph signing or sketches? Use that as a marketing channel and offer 10% coupons to your online store for those that swing on by.

Now let's take a look at how have some of existing webcomics have fared with diversification:
Look at (aka Dinosaur Comics), run by Ryan North. North does an amazing job of creating different market-facing products and services, all which have amazing potential for growth. His comic has an increasing selection of merchandise to choose from, and his technical innovations, OhNoRobot and RSSpect are both growing in popularity. Although North hasn't grown his ad model to that of other comics, the opportunity is there and in the meantime he has the ability to leverage those impressions to drive traffic to his other revenue streams.

I had a chance to speak with Scott Kurtz from PVP about the topic, and he has managed multiple sources of revenue to the point where it's a healthy mix of advertising (multiple clients), merchandise (through, comic books (published via Image) and show appearances.

It wasn't always this way, however. Early on, Kurtz was focusing on one revenue stream at a time and was "constantly worried about it dropping out on you." The shift didn't come without its pains and aches he says. "At some point, you can't juggle any more plates … and it gets stressful. But not as stressful as getting a call and finding out your one revenue source is done and suddenly you're f*cked."

And Kurtz brings up a great point; can one over-diversify? Absolutely. Spreading your resources too thin potentially cannibalizes the growth in all parts of your business. The balance is different for each company and it's important to keep in mind. There are other ways besides improper resource management that diversification can have a negative impact. Again, from Kurtz, "If a game company asked me to write a strip to cater to their game, that would bring in revenue, but it would betray [and ultimately hurt] my readership. My readers know if I talk about a show, game or product, it comes from a genuine experience. Not because Sony paid me to push Everquest II on my fans."

Next Steps!

So what are our takeaways for this?

1. Diversifying is the safe bet and spreads risk across multiple disciplines.
2. Diversifying creates internal synergies that translates to a greater chance of success than operating each revenue source independently. (and one day you'll be able to say that without feeling dirty)
3. Diversifying ties your unified brand to each business unit- think of it as free marketing.

In closing, I'd also like to point out there's no shame in copying what works out there. Look at Qwantz, PVP, Penny Arcade, or Dumbrella… all of these guys know what they're doing. They're market leaders for a reason.

Bush urges federal marriage amendment
Measure would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex unions

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Bush rallied support Monday for a ban on gay marriage as the Senate opened a volatile, election-year debate on a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex weddings.

“Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure,” said Bush, who raised the issue’s profile with an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Bush criticized judges who have overturned state laws similar in intent to the proposed legislation. “Marriage is the most fundamental institution of civilization, and it should not be redefined by activist judges,” he said.

Traditional marriage, Bush said, is the cornerstone of a healthy society and the issue should be put “back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people.”

Senate votes this week
There was little chance of that in the near future. Neither chamber is likely to pass the amendment by the two-thirds majority required to send it to the states — three quarters of which would then have to approve it.

Many Republicans support the measure because they say traditional marriage strengthens society; others don’t but concede the reality of election-year politics.

“Marriage between one man and one woman does a better job protecting children better than any other institution humankind has devised,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. “As such, marriage as an institution should be protected, not redefined.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he will vote against the measure on the floor but allowed it to get there in part to give the GOP the debate party leaders believe will pay off on Election Day. Specter has chosen a different battle with the Bush administration this week — a hearing Tuesday on the ways the FBI spies on journalists who publish classified information.

Democrats: Debate will split society
As that hearing gets under way, debate on the marriage amendment will enter its second day on the Senate floor. All but one of the Senate Democrats — the exception is Ben Nelson of Nebraska — oppose the measure and, with moderate Republicans, are expected to block an up-or-down vote, killing the measure for the year.

Democrats say the amendment is a divisive bow to religious conservatives, and point out that it conflicts with the GOP’s opposition to big government interference.

“A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry pure and simple,” said Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, where the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriages in 2003.

Top Democrat will oppose
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who says he believes marriage is the union of a man and a woman, said he nonetheless will vote against the amendment on a test vote Wednesday.

“The reason for this debate is to divide our society, to pit one against another,” Reid said in remarks prepared for delivery on the Senate floor. “This is another one of the presidents efforts to frighten, to distort, to distract and to confuse America. It is this administration’s way of avoiding the tough, real problems that American citizens are confronted with each and every day.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, which in 2004 began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, on Monday denounced Bush’s move as predictable and “stale rhetoric” aimed at rallying conservatives for this year’s midterm elections.

“It’s politics. It’s pandering and it’s placating a core constituency, the evangelicals,” Newsom said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

White House press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged said there was a political dimension to Bush’s remarks Monday but said the president was not calling senators to persuade them to pass the amendment. “I’m not sure this is a big driver among voters,” Snow said.

Bush’s views on the federal marriage amendment differ from those held by Vice President Dick Cheney, whose daughter, Mary, is a lesbian.

Cheney said he thinks Americans should do everything they can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into. He said he does not think there should necessarily be a federal policy in this area.

Emotions run deep
Acknowledging that emotions often run hot in this debate, Bush urged calm during his Saturday morning radio address.

“As this debate goes forward, we must remember that every American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect and dignity,” he said. “All of us have a duty to conduct this discussion with civility and decency toward one another, and all people deserve to have their voices heard.”

David Buckel, Marriage Project director of Lambda Legal, a national organization working to protect the rights of lesbians, gay men and others, said the amendment would be damaging to the lives of same-sex couples and families, which raise millions of children.

“It would brand lesbian and gay men as legally inferior individuals,” he said. “It would write into the supreme law of the land that this group of people are inferior, and when it’s the law, it’s a message to everyone else in society that they have license to discriminate.”

Bush said in his radio address there is broad consensus in America to protect the institution of marriage.

Voters in 19 states have approved amendments to their state constitutions that protect the traditional definition of marriage, he said. Moreover, he said, 45 of the 50 states have either a state constitutional amendment or statute defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Self-mutilation rampant at 2 Ivy League schools
Survey: 17 percent at Cornell and Princeton purposely cut themselves

The Associated Press

Sarah Rodey, 20, a University of Illinois student began self-injuring
by cutting herself, a disturbing phenomenon that counselors say is
happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools nationwide. M. Spencer Green / AP

CHICAGO - Nearly 1 in 5 students at two Ivy League schools say they have purposely injured themselves by cutting, burning or other methods, a disturbing phenomenon that psychologists say they are hearing about more often.

For some young people, self-abuse is an extreme coping mechanism that seems to help relieve stress; for others it’s a way to make deep emotional wounds more visible.

The results of the survey at Cornell and Princeton are similar to other estimates on this frightening behavior. Counselors say it’s happening at colleges, high schools and middle schools across the country.

Separate research found more than 400 Web sites devoted to subject, including many that glorify self-injury. Some worry that many sites serve as an online subculture that fuels the behavior — although whether there has been an increase in the practice or just more awareness is unclear.

Sarah Rodey, 20, a University of Illinois student who started cutting herself at age 16, said some online sites help socially isolated kids feel like they belong. One of her favorites includes graphic photographs that the site warns might be “triggering.”

“I saw myself in some of those pictures, in the poems. And because I saw myself there, I wanted to connect to it better” by self-injuring, Rodey said.

The Web sites, recent books and media coverage are pulling back the curtain on the secretive practice and helping researchers better understand why some as young as grade-schoolers do it.

“You’re trying to get people to know that you’re hurting, and at the same time, it pushes them away” because the behavior is so distressing, said Rodey, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The latest prevalence estimate comes from an analysis of responses from 2,875 randomly selected male and female undergraduates and graduate students at Cornell and Princeton who completed an Internet-based mental health survey.

Seventeen percent said they had purposely injured themselves; among those, 70 percent had done so multiple times. The estimate is comparable to previous reports on U.S. adolescents and young adults, but slightly higher than studies of high school students in Australia and the United Kingdom.

'An increasing phenomenon'
The study appears in this month’s issue of Pediatrics, released Monday. Cornell psychologist Janis Whitlock, the study’s main author, also led the Web site research, published in April in Developmental Psychology.

Among the Ivy League students who harmed themselves, about half said they’d experienced sexual, emotional or physical abuse that researchers think can trigger self-abuse.

Repeat self-abusers were more likely than non-injurers to be female and to have had eating disorders or suicidal tendencies, although self-injuring is usually not considered a suicide attempt.

Greg Eels, director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell, said the study’s findings are not surprising. “We see it frequently and it seems to be an increasing phenomenon.”

While Eels said the competitive, stressful college environment may be particularly intense at Ivy League schools, he thinks the results reflect a national problem.

Dr. Daniel Silverman, a study co-author and Princeton’s director of health services, said the study has raised consciousness among his staff, who are now encouraged to routinely ask about self-abuse when faced with students “in acute distress.”

“Unless we start talking about it and making it more acceptable for people to come forward, it will remain hidden,” Silverman said.

Some self-injurers have no diagnosable illness but have not learned effective ways to cope with life stresses, said Victoria White Kress, an associate professor at Youngstown State University in Ohio. She consults with high schools and says demand for her services has risen in recent years.

Psychologists overwhelmed
Psychologists who work with middle and high schools “are overwhelmed with referrals for these kids,” said psychologist Richard Lieberman, who coordinates a suicide prevention program for Los Angeles public schools.

He said one school recently reported several fourth-graders with burns on their arms, and another seeking help for “15 hysterical seventh-grade girls in the office and they all have cuts on their arms.”

In those situations, Lieberman said there’s usually one instigator whose behavior is copied by sympathetic but probably less troubled friends.

Rodey, a college sophomore, said cutting became part of her daily high school routine.

“It was part of waking up, getting dressed, the last look in the mirror and then the cut on the wrist. It got to be where I couldn’t have a perfect day without it,” Rodey said.

“If I was apprehensive about going to school, or I wasn’t feeling great, I did that and I’d get a little rush,” she said.

Whitlock is among researchers who believe that “rush” is feel-good hormones called endorphins produced in response to pain. But it is often followed by deep shame and the injuries sometimes require medical treatment.

Vicki Duffy, 37, runs a Morris County, N.J., support group and said when she was in her 20s, she had skin graft surgery on her arms after burning herself with cigarettes and a fire-starter. After psychological and drug treatment, she stopped the behavior 10 years ago.

Author of the 2004 book “No More Pain: Breaking the Silence of Self-Injury,” Duffy recalled being stopped on the street by a 70-year-old woman who saw her scarred arms and said, “’I used to do that.”’

Rodey said she stopped several months ago with the help of S.A.F.E. (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives treatment program at a suburban Chicago hospital. Treatment includes behavior therapy and keeping a written log to track what triggers the behavior.

Rodey said she feels “healed” but not cured “because it’s something I will struggle with the rest of my life. Whenever I get really stressed out, that’s the first thing I think about.”