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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Man Confesses After Seeing 'The Passion'
The Associated Press
MESA, Ariz.

A 20-year-old man confessed to a half dozen burglaries, saying he felt guilty after seeing the movie "The Passion of the Christ."

When police responded to a burglar alarm at a wireless phone store around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, Turner Lee Bingham walked up and confessed to taking $80 from the register, police said. He also said he was responsible for five or six other burglaries.

"He had made some mention that after watching the Mel Gibson movie ... that was his motive for turning himself in," said Mesa police detective Ruben Quesada.

Bingham told officers he threw the money from a U.S. 60 overpass, Quesada said. Police did not find the money.

Earlier this month, a Texas man confessed to killing a woman after seeing "The Passion" and talking to a spiritual adviser. Dan R. Leach, 21, confessed to killing 19-year-old Ashley Nicole Wilson because he believed she was pregnant with his child.

Neo-Nazi bomber confesses after seeing 'Passion'
March 31, 2004

A FORMER neo-Nazi who admitted to twice bombing a youth group's headquarters in the 1990s said he was inspired to confess after watching the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."

Johnny Olsen, 41, was ordered held for two weeks by Oslo district court Monday pending an investigation. Olsen turned himself in to police over the weekend and said he was behind two bombings of a left-wing youth group's headquarters in downtown Oslo in 1994 and 1995. No one was injured in the separate attacks on the Blitz House in downtown Oslo.

Olsen, who served 12 years in prison for murder when he was a teenager in a separate crime, said he was moved to confess by Mel Gibson's film.

"Jesus lives" Olsen told reporters in a choked voice, as he entered the courtroom for his detention hearing Monday. "I distance myself from my past and neo-Nazism."

His attorney, Fridtjof Feydt, told reporters that he was stunned by his client's confession, describing it as a "bolt of lightning" after Olsen saw the film.

If convicted of arson in the bombings, Olsen would likely get a mild sentence because he confessed and because he led police to an illegal weapons stash.

The film, which portrays the final hours and the crucifixion of Christ, has divided religious communities since opening in the United States on February 25. Some Jewish leaders fear it will revive the notion that Jews were responsible for death of Jesus Christ, while some Christians have praised the movie for its portrayal of Christ.

The film has inspired at least one other person to confess to a crime. A 21-year-old Texas man saw the film and admitted killing his girlfriend, whose death in January had been ruled a suicide.

'Passion of Christ' moves man to confess killing 'suicide' victim
By Eric Hanson
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

RICHMOND -- Detectives say the death of a 19-year-old woman originally ruled a suicide has turned into a murder case after a repentant man who'd watched The Passion of the Christ confessed to killing her because she was carrying his child.

Fort Bend County Sheriff's Detective Mike Kubricht said today that investigators thought Ashley Nicole Wilson had hanged herself in January. Earlier this month, however, 21-year-old Dan R. Leach of Rosenberg turned himself in after watching Mel Gibson's controversial movie about the last hours of Christ's life and Leach decided to seek redemption, Kubricht said.

The young woman's body was found by her mother Jan. 19 in her Richmond-area apartment. The Harris County Medical Examiner ruled her death a suicide caused by asphyxia due to external compression with a ligature.

Then, on March 7, Leach, who had known the victim for many years, walked into the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Department headquarters and confessed to killing her.

Kubricht said Leach told investigators he carefully planned the killing to make it look like a suicide. The suspect allegedly strangled Wilson because he did not want to raise her unborn child or be involved with her anymore, Kubricht said.

A grand jury indicted Leach Monday and he was arrested the next day. He is being held on $100,000 bond.

Read the indictment against Dan Randall Leach II

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

FW: 5 reasons not to mess with a child

1. A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. he teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. The little girl said, "when I get to heaven I will ask Jonah." The teacher asked, "what if Jonah went to hell?" The little girl replied, "then you ask him."

2. A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's work. As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was. The girl replied, "I'm drawing God." The teacher paused and said, "but no one knows what God looks like." Without missing a beat, or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, "they will in a minute."

3. A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year olds. After explaining the commandment to"honor" thy Father and thy Mother, she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?" Without missing a beat one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, "Thou shall not kill."

4. The children had all been photographed, and the teacher was trying to persuade them each to buy a copy of the group picture. "Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, 'there's Jennifer, she's a lawyer,' or 'that's Michael, he's a doctor.'" A small voice at the back of the room rang out, "and there's the teacher, she's dead."

5. The children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table was a large pile of apples. The nun made a note, and posted on the apple tray: "take only ONE. God is watching." Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. A child had written a note, "take all you want. God is watching the apples."

Paris Court Denies 'Passion' Ban
Mar 29, 11:30 AM EST

PARIS (AP) -- A Paris court Monday rejected a request by three Jewish brothers to ban Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" on the grounds it would foment anti-Semitism in France.

The court ruled that the film, which is scheduled for release in this country Wednesday, would not threaten public order.

"To make the death of Jesus into the major motivation of anti-Semitism that leads to secular persecutions against Jews would stem from a narrow view of Mel Gibson's film," judge Florence Lagemi wrote in his decision.

The Benlolo brothers — Patrick, Gerard and Jean-Marc — presented their case Friday before going to a screening of the film with a lawyer for the movie's French distributor.

They plan to appeal.

The film, which opened in the United States on Feb. 25, has divided religious communities. Some Jewish leaders fear it will revive the notion that Jews were responsible for death of Jesus Christ, while some Christians have praised the movie for its portrayal of Christ.

The film has earned more than $315 million in the United States so far.

The Benlolo complaint argued the film has a "false and erroneous vision of certain religious events" and would "stir anti-Jewish hatred."

France has battled anti-Semitic violence for more than two years. In the worst case, a synagogue in the Mediterranean coastal city of Marseille was burned to the ground in March 2002.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Chasing Kevin
Director Kevin Smith says his warm new movie, 'Jersey Girl,' wasn't made for critics. Good thing. A frank exchange with NEWSWEEK's David Ansen.

'Jersey' Guy: Director Kevin Smith says
Ben Affleck is his 'way better-looking proxy'

NewsweekMarch 29 issue - In "Jersey Girl," the creator of such funny, edgy cult hits as "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy" spins the surprisingly mainstream and sentimental tale of New York publicist Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck), whose glam life comes crashing down when his wife (Jennifer Lopez) dies in childbirth. Overwhelmed by having to raise his daughter, he has a meltdown that costs him his career. His dreams shattered, he moves back home to Jersey with his father (George Carlin), and spends seven years driving a street sweeper. Torn between his love for his daughter (Raquel Castro) and his longing for Manhattan, between his loyalty to his late wife and the frisky attentions of a video clerk (Liv Tyler), Ollie faces some hard choices.

DAVID ANSEN: "Jersey Girl" is a very brave movie in the sense that you're certainly going to surprise your fans.

Definitely the 13- and 14-year-old boys who loved "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" can find no purchase in this movie, because it's kind of about the three tiers of maturity, right? Having a job or a career, getting married, having a kid. With the exception of showing Liv Tyler in her bra in the shower, there's not much for them to latch onto. But thankfully the fan base isn't made up just of that. People who jumped onboard with "Clerks" have grown up with us, so they're married and having kids. "Chasing Amy" is not really that different from "Jersey Girl," as much as it's a mixture of comedy and drama, and about relationships—we just swapped out the lesbian for a 7-year-old girl. "Dogma" certainly didn't appeal just to the fart-joke crowd.

I thought of "Chasing Amy" as I was watching this. It's my favorite of your films.
Thanks. Mine, too.

But "Jersey Girl" isn't my favorite.

It's obviously a personal movie for you, but it felt like you hadn't digested everything. It felt cliched, and it slipped into sentimentality.
When you start dealing with subject matter like being married and raising a child, yeah, it's definitely going to be viewed by some as cliche, because it's a pretty universal story. When I finished the screenplay, Scott Mosher, my longtime producer, said, "This is the most accessible script you've ever written." But that didn't occur to me when I was writing it.

Ben Affleck has to carry the movie alone—at a time when the media seem to want him to fail.
He's being punished because he had a very public relationship. But for five films now he's kind of been my proxy—just a way better-looking proxy. He's a guy whose acting I really adore. I can watch him in anything—even the movies that are supposed to be s--t. But he was at this point where he was being cast in role after role as a man with a gun, you know? Man in tights jumping off buildings. Man almost singlehandedly beating the Japanese in World War II. Actors by nature want to inhabit characters that they'd never be in real life. I'm sure he doesn't want to hear this, but Ben is always best when he's playing himself, essentially. In real life, he's very charming—a funny guy, erudite, good to be around.

Everybody who meets him says that. What's interesting is that very rarely does all of that charm make it to the screen. I'm trying to figure out what's missing. Part of it, I think, is something that you can't control. It's the way his face is made. It's almost like there aren't quite enough planes in it. There are certain actors—Meryl Streep is a perfect example—who can let you know exactly what they're thinking by the slightest flush of their skin. Ben can't do that. But I did think he had a lot of good moments here. Jennifer Lopez is perfectly fine, although she's hardly in the movie. I assume you made some cuts because of the negative publicity.
The only thing in the movie that was cut because of their off-screen relationship was a 12-second shot of them getting married. When they didn't get married in real life, I knew it would be a distraction. You run the risk of people starting to chuckle.

Let's talk about some specific scenes. There's a soliloquy where Ben is talking to his little girl—she's just a baby and can't understand what he's saying. I know it's supposed to be an emotional centerpiece. He's talking about how much he loved her mother, and how torn up he is. It seemed to me that everything that he was saying had already been said implicitly. You were underlining and spelling everything out.
Or just giving Ben a really nice monologue, you know? Obviously, I love Ben's delivery. It didn't work for you—I get it. But that's the moment where everyone starts crying in the theater, so obviously it wasn't a bad decision. Some people maybe need stuff underlined for them. Because I've made movies that pushed the edge of the envelope in the past, I get penalized when I make one that doesn't. Some people are, like, "Well, it's not your riskiest movie." What am I, a stuntman? I got in the movies to tell the stories that I wanted to tell. So, maybe this time around I lose some of the critics who have liked my edgier stuff.

At the screening I went to, there was a woman behind me, who was not a critic, and she loved it. She thought it was incredibly touching.
Why doesn't she write for NEWSWEEK, for heaven's sakes?

I'll give her a call.[Laughter] My objection is not that "Jersey Girl" isn't cutting edge. It's that you were falling back on some old, hackneyed tricks. There's a scene when our hero is running through the streets to try to make it to his daughter's performance at the class show. We've seen this so many times before.
When I wrote that scene, I hadn't really seen it anywhere. And then "About a Boy" came out, and then there was that movie "Uptown Girls" and "Love Actually"—and "School of Rock." I thought, "Good God. We all had the same idea, essentially."

And the heroes are always rushing, and we're supposed to worry if they'll make it.
You'll find this really funny—or sad, considering your take on it—but that shot of him running up the hill is my favorite shot of the movie. It's the one that I think encapsulates what it's like to be a father. But was it an original thought? Probably not.

He has to run because the road in town is blocked, and I couldn't help but ask myself, Well, how did all those other people get to the show? They weren't running! It's picky, I know.
David, this is the part of your job that would be the most irritating to me if I were a critic. Sometimes you just have to kick back and suspend disbelief and not ask, How did they all get there?

But as you know, you're more inclined to do that when a movie is working for you.
That's true.

And when you become disengaged from the movie, you start to see things.
You start to take it apart. Look, at the end of the day I'm not an inventive or very creative filmmaker. Here's a perfect example, a defining moment. I went to see "The Matrix"—the first one, not the bad ones. So I'm sitting there going, like, "Wow, I've never seen anything like this. These dudes are really creative." I thought, I will never be that guy. I cannot reinvent the wheel. All I can do is add a spoke to an already existing wheel, and hopefully it's my spoke and it kind of stands out a little bit. Once I accepted that, it was kind of liberating.

But "Clerks" is a movie I'd never seen before. "Chasing Amy" is a movie I'd never seen before. "Dogma" is a movie I'd never seen. "Jersey Girl" is a movie that I've seen a lot. Uh-huh. But you haven't seen my version.

One nice surprise is the look of the movie. You used to be famous for not moving the camera.
If you use a great cinematographer like Vilmos Zsigmond you're guaranteed a great-looking movie. I actually learned to move the camera. Working under that dude's tutelage was a very beneficial film school.

There are also some very funny moments—the scene where Matt Damon and Jason Lee play advertising executives, or the fact that every girl in the class show wants to perform "Memory," from "Cats." But I did have a bit of a hard time believing that Ben's character would go for seven years without having sex.
Are you married?

All right, here's the thing. I've been married five years. Considering my body shape, I had the good fortune to have enough sex with different women before I got married. Once I got married, I realized I never wanted to f--- anyone else for the rest of my life. Even if my wife died. It's not just physical, though that's fantastic. Psychologically, I am tied to her. When you're really committed to somebody, forget it, man. It's impossible to think about f---ing somebody else.

Will Smith has a cameo playing himself, and inspires Ben's character to rethink his life. Now that's a device I've used many times before. Did you have a problem with that, too? Did you like anything in the movie? [Laughter]

Some of it I thought was very funny. You'd been warned how I felt about the movie, right?
Totally. And, honestly, it's cool. You've been such a supporter in the past that it doesn't bother me. And it's informative. It's kind of a watershed moment, because I always wanted to know what the face of the person who wasn't onboard with this movie was going to look like. Who is the person that doesn't like this movie? So now I—

Now you know. It's me.
[Laughter] But it's actually kind of cool. It's not like you're gonna walk out of here going, "I was wrong, the movie is great." But at least you get to say your piece, and I get to say my piece. This feels good. I don't think you are going to sit down with a dude that has directed "Deuce Bigelow," and go, "Let's talk about how I didn't like your movie." It's like, well, at least it's f---ing NEWSWEEK, for God's sakes. At least they cared.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

A matter of personal faith
By Ibarra C. Mateo
The Philippine Star 03/18/2004

One of the expected pitfalls when a popular cultural medium such as film tackles religious themes, especially the life of Jesus Christ, is that it generates controversy.

Director Mel Gibson's latest opus, The Passion of the Christ, has been severely criticized by North American and European critics notably for its brutal presentation of the violence that marked Jesus Christ's last 12 hours. Distributed locally by 20th Century Fox through Warner Brothers, the film has been getting rave reviews from Filipino critics on the other hand.

In an unusual move, officials of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recently watched last Monday an advanced screening of the film together with an estimated 150 bishops, superiors of religious congregations, Catholic school leaders, and priests.

Issuing an unprecedented endorsement after watching The Passion, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales said, "I want every Filipino to watch this film because there is a promise here, there is meaning. Maybe God is trying to tell us something." While the decidedly secular North American and European critics have labeled The Passion as a cinematic portrayal of lurid sadomasochism, festival of torture, and another defamation drive against the Jews, Rosales described the accusations of anti-Semitism as issue-grinding by "those who could not make a distinction that separates the Jews' political development and personal history.

Strongly extolling Gibson’s personal convictions, CBCP President and Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla said The Passion "brings you back to the essence of your faith."

Religious faith is key in appreciating The Passion, which is regarded by many as a genuine articulation of Gibson's beliefs. The tricky issue here is that cultural consumption, in this case going to a theater and seeing The Passion, becomes a very public expression of one's most private relationship: between a person and God – if he or she is a believer.

The point I am emphasizing here is this: The Passion is about a viewer's personal faith in God. How a viewer receives the film's message is a direct function of what he or she takes inside a theater aside from a can of cola and a bag of popcorn, and not how realistic the spilling of the blood and the bashing of the bones are portrayed. A member of the audience is most likely to hinge his or her appreciation of the film on his or her "spirituality" and set of beliefs.

Gibson is not out to convert the non-believers, but he succeeds – through James Caviezel who plays the role of Jesus and Maia Morgenstern as Mary – in rendering Jesus Christ’s last 12 hours which are filled with sufferings, fears, and violence. While any Filipino believer understands and knows the passion of Christ, there is a lack of adequate understanding of the extent of the pain and brutality of how the Roman rulers and soldiers punished their subjects condemned them to death. The penitence and self-flagellation of devotees who go to the extent of literally having themselves nailed on a cross come Good Friday is a walk in the park if we reread carefully the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Before watching the film, if possible, please take time to study their accounts of Jesus’ journey from the time he prayed at the Garden of Olives (Gethsemane) after the conclusion of the Last Supper, His betrayal by Judas Iscariot and His subsequent arrest, the return to Jerusalem, confrontation with the Pharisees, His audience with Pontius Pilate and King Herod and His sentencing to death, and His dying on the cross.

A believer is bound to acclaim Caviezel's gripping portrayal of Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice of dying for His convictions and for His believers.

But this is not to say that Gibson's rendition of brutality in this film is fit for consumption by an unaccompanied minor. Two scenes must be mentioned: the extended whipping of Jesus Christ and His crucifixion.

Just to show how much of blood and other body fluids are spilled, Gibson uses a long-shot of Mary and Mary Magdalene (Monica Bellucci) wiping with white cloths the spot where Jesus is scourged (notice the stark contrast between a wide field of red and a small dot of white) and slowly zooms in on a close-up shot of the white cloths which turn red.

Cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s technique of deliberately using low-key lighting from the opening scenes at Gethsemane, progressing to high-key lighting during the film’s climax (crucifixion) is a clever way of making a viewer feel the intensity of the conflict.

His effortless use of lap dissolve to bridge the present and the flashing back of the past in Jesus’ mind is superb, with the flash- back scenes done mostly in sepia tones. There are extraordinarily brilliant scenes notably using the point-of-view shots such as when Jesus falls on His knees due to the heavy cross and the people around Him are shown inverted on the screen, and when he uses an aerial shot to reveal to the audience how Jesus, on the throes of death, sees the spectacle of Roman soldiers cheering His eventual death and the suffering crowd.

The makeup special effects by Greg Cannom is a sure nominee in next year’s Oscars. Watch how muscles are shredded, flesh slashed, and gaping wounds drip with blood. Production designer Francesco Frigeri, costume designer Maurizio Millenotti, art director Nazzareno Piana, and set decorator Carlo Gervasi must be commended for their credible recreation of the sets where Jesus spent His last 12 hours.

Among the notable members of the cast are Claudia Gerini (as Claudia Procles), Rosalinda Celentano (Satan), Hristo Jivkov (John), Hristo Shopov (Pontius Pilate), Jarreth Merz (Simon), Luca Lionello (Judas), and Mattia Sbragia (Caiphas).

Bravo to Gibson who is also the screenwriter (together with Ben Fitzgerald) and producer, John Debney for his creepy music compositions and scoring, and Shaila Rubin for assembling such a wonderful cast. Editor John Wright could have cut several of the drawn-out scenes to speed up the pace of the film which uses Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew for its dialogues.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Boy Wins Vt. Rotten Sneaker Contest
2 hours, 37 minutes ago
By TIM McCAHILL, Associated Press Writer

MONTPELIER, Vt. - Daegan Goodman may have had the shortest distance to travel to the rotten sneaker contest, but you couldn't tell that by smelling his shoes. The 10-year-old from Montpelier took the crown — and probably a few of the judges' olfactory glands — in the annual event, which lured eight other finalists to Vermont's capital city from across the country.

Daegan explained his simple recipe for winning the coveted golden sneaker.

"I just wear 'em, sweat in 'em, play sports — I just try," he said, the flashing bulbs and news cameras signaling the start of the youngster's celebrity.

Regular use and abuse seemed the treatment of choice for competitors in Tuesday's contest, which is sponsored by Odor-Eaters.

"I do BMX," said James Melton, 11, of Phoenix, Ariz. "The dirt and sweat combined made (my sneakers) really stinky."

James won a local contest to make it to Montpelier, heralded as the "Rotten Sneaker Capital of the World."

Appearing last in the 90-minute finals, James couldn't quite pass muster with "master sniffer" George Aldrich. But the impressive stench from his sneakers caused the 48-year-old judge to sway slightly nonetheless.

The annual contest began in 1975 as a way to help a local sporting goods store sell shoes. In 1988, Odor-Eaters — maker of anti-foot-odor insoles, sprays and powder — assumed sponsorship of the event.

As the winner, Daegan gets a $500 savings bond, $100 to buy a new pair of sneakers, the golden sneaker and a plethora of Odor-Eater products — fitting prizes for a boy with many more miles to walk.

He'll also get plenty of attention along the way. Daegan is already scheduled for appearances on cable television shows, and organizers said he'll get similar requests throughout the year.

But with glory comes sacrifice, and to prove it Odor-Eaters hired a military man to whip competitors into shape before judging began.

Sgt. Odor-Eaters — known better by his real name, Jason Goodwin — moderated the contest and led participants through a series of push-ups, jumping jacks and sit-ups to make their shoes smell all the more stupefying.

"It was an honor; I was proud," said Goodwin, who in his real life is an actor from New York City. "I didn't realize how smelly the shoes would be."

Smell alone is not the only quality the shoes are judged on. Appearance, "overall condition," heels and soles also count, qualities that require the presence of four other judges.

But in the end it is Aldrich who assumes the hardest responsibility. His job in Montpelier doesn't get easier even though he's conducted hundreds of smell tests for NASA space shuttle missions.

"The stench sometimes stays with me for days," said Aldrich. "It's like a flashback."

Despite the sour smells, Aldrich said he'd come back for his sixth time next year if he's asked.

Rooney Sparks Outcry With Gibson Remark
Mar 14, 10:05 PM EST

Andy Rooney certainly knows how to stir the passion in his viewers. The "60 Minutes" curmudgeon said Sunday he got 30,000 pieces of mail and e-mail in response to his Feb. 22 commentary, in which he called "The Passion of the Christ" filmmaker Mel Gibson a "wacko."

It's the biggest viewer response ever to a segment on the CBS newsmagazine, which has been on the air since 1968, a spokesman said.

Rooney also called the Rev. Pat Robertson a "wacko" for saying he had a conversation with God, but not many people noticed that, he said.

Most of his mail concerned Gibson.

"I think the mail was a good indication of how bitterly divided our country is right now," Rooney said on his Sunday "60 Minutes" commentary. "I hope I'm not contributing to that — even though I'm right and everyone else is wrong."

He read some of the mail on the air, including one letter that called him an "asinine, bottom-dwelling, numb-skulled, low-life, slimy, sickening, gutless, spineless, ignorant, pot-licking, cowardly pathetic little weasel."

Rooney, 85, noted that many of his critics took shots at his age. Even Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly said he was too old.

"That wasn't nice, Bill," he said. "I didn't get old on purpose. It just happened. If you're lucky, it could happen to you."

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Social Taboos in History

1. It's 1928 and this once-taboo activity attracted thousands of women, thanks in part to an aggressive public relations campaign.

Smoking cigarettes
Before the 1920s, smoking cigarettes was largely a male thing. But George Washington Hill, president of the American Tobacco Company, changed that in 1928 by commissioning the father of public relations, Edward Bernays, to make smoking attractive to women. The promise of glamour, sexiness and fun led thousands of women to light up and make a formerly taboo habit soar in popularity.

2. It's 1952 and Reader's Digest publishes "Cancer by the Carton," explaining the dangers of smoking, which many considered safe. What happened next?

Sales of filtered cigarettes increased dramatically.
The article led to a spike in sales of filtered cigarettes. The following year, however, overall cigarette sales dropped slightly for the first time in more than 20 years.

3. It's 1923 and you've been invited to the local saloon for a beer. Wanting to remain lawful, you say...

No thanks. Prohibition makes it illegal to sell beer.
National prohibition of alcohol (1920-33) - the "noble experiment" - was undertaken to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses, and improve health and hygiene in America. During this time selling intoxicating beverages was illegal in the United States. However, physicians could still prescribe alcohol as medication.

4. It's 1907 and women can be arrested for wearing this now-common item in public. Just ask Annette Kellerman.

One-piece swimsuit
Actress and swimmer Annette Kellerman made a brief publicity appearance on Boston's Revere Beach wearing her usual Vaudeville costume - a boy's black woolen racing suit that clung tightly and left her legs, arms and neck bare. Other women on the beach were wearing traditional swimwear, which included skirts, long-sleeved blouses and stockings. Unhappy with Kellerman's "immodesty," a fellow beachgoer called a cop, who arrested Kellerman for indecent exposure.

5. It's 1885 and women all over are wearing a one-piece blouse and pants outfit called the "Princess Cut." What were you likely doing if you were wearing one?

The "Princess Cut" swimsuit let women lounge by the pool or the ocean without showing too much skin.

6. It's 1920 and you're suffering from a minor illness. What would a doctor commonly prescribe as medication?

"Sun Therapy" (tanning)
By the early 1920s "Sun Therapy" was very popular and was prescribed as a cure for everything from simple fatigue to tuberculosis. More recently, however, doctors have warned people about the dangers of excessive and artificial tanning.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Director Peter Jackson discusses his post-'Rings' projects
By Philip Wakefield
The Hollywood Reporter

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealander Peter Jackson has gone from making movies as a hobby to making movies about hobbits -- films that have helped him forge a filmmaking empire in New Zealand and build a reputation in Hollywood for pulling off the impossible.

On the eve of landing his most precious prize yet -- an Oscar for directing "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," the last film in the "Rings" trilogy -- Jackson spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Philip Wakefield about the upcoming "King Kong," among other topics.

The Hollywood Reporter: Will making a single movie like "King Kong" seem anticlimactic after "The Lord of the Rings"?

Peter Jackson:
From a logistical point of view, a single movie is much easier, but the main creative challenge of writing a good script and making a good movie remains as difficult as ever.

I do think that having the experience of three huge films back-to-back behind us has given the "LOTR" crew and craftspeople a confidence that we can take on any project.

THR: What key challenges does its filming present?

Writing the script is always the most critical and difficult job. The actual filming shouldn't be too tricky once we assemble a great cast. Creating a strong emotional presence of Kong himself will be a challenge since he obviously won't be joining us on set.

THR: Can you confirm which, if any, "Lord of the Rings" cast will be involved with "King Kong"?

It's too early to say about cast, apart from Naomi Watts, who's now confirmed. We need to write for a few more weeks to establish exactly what type of other characters we are looking for. I'm hoping there will be suitable roles for one or two "LOTR" actors.

THR: How will your "King Kong" differ from the original and the first remake?

It's based on the 1933 movie, and we will follow that basic plot and narrative structure. We will obviously be writing much more depth into the characters -- approaching it as a drama rather than fantasy. We pretend the 1976 version doesn't exist.

THR: Will all of "King Kong" be shot and postproduced in New Zealand?

Yes. Production will be based in Miramar, Wellington, at Stone Street Studios, which is having a new huge soundstage built to accommodate our needs.

THR: Did you ever think "Lord of the Rings" would become the phenomenon it has, and what has most surprised you about its success?

No. Even dreaming of this kind of success is something you just don't do during production. It would jinx it! We were all hoping New Line would get its money back, and we worked very hard to try and achieve that. If that happened, we would hopefully get to make other films. I have been surprised by how many non-Tolkien readers we have now converted. Having young kids plow their way through his rather difficult books is something I'm proud to have inspired.

THR: How important was DVD to the box-office success of "Rings," and who conceived the strategy of the extended cuts?

I suggested the extended cuts when we were locking down the "Fellowship of the Ring" cut in 2001. Until we actually knew how much deleted footage we would end up with and how worthwhile it was, there was no thought about alternate cuts. Having multiple units shooting three movies at once, out of sequence, with continual script revisions, made it difficult to keep track of exactly how long each of the films was going to be. As it happened, we had nearly an extra hour of deleted scenes for each of the three movies. I've always regarded those deleted scenes as being a legitimate part of our "LOTR" adaptation.

THR: What do you most regret you couldn't achieve with "Lord of the Rings"?

I don't have regrets -- only a rather stunned disbelief at what has transpired. Ask me in five years.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Headless statue: Hero or neglect?
By Gil Francis G. Arevalo
Inquirer News Service

IN FRONT of the post office building in Legazpi City's business center is a statue of a headless man that leaves not a few people wondering what it actually represents. Was it that of an unknown guerrilla from Bicol or from another part of the country?

According to historical accounts, Legazpi's port in Barangay Sabang, where the monument was previously found, served as "death grounds" for Filipino guerrillas during World War II.

What further baffles residents is that there are no existing records or photos of the structure. To old-timers, however, it depicts the martyrdom of Bicolano war heroes.

Accidental discovery

On Nov. 22, 1945, laborers digging along the shore of the Albay Gulf in Sabang found what appeared to be a headless human body.

Pacita Jacobo, 72, who has served as barangay chair of Victory Village in Legazpi for the past 15 years, said she was just a teenager when she and some of her neighbors witnessed the find.

"Most of the people say the body had been buried for only a few days. In reality, it had been there for a very long time. Maybe the saltwater had somehow preserved it throughout that period," she theorized.

She said the body had a soldier's uniform and was still intact, but unfortunately, the head was missing.

Another elderly, Tony Arispe, a retired weatherman of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said the late Don Buenaventura de Erquiaga took the initiative to preserve the body.

Erquiaga was a Spanish businessman-philanthropist and founder of the defunct Legazpi College, now the Aquinas University of Legazpi, in Barangay Rawis. He was an adopted Bicolano.

"At that time, most people in Sabang were not that conscious of the body's relevance because they thought it was just an ordinary corpse. Through Don Erquiaga's initiative, the headless body was given importance and a place was found for its burial in our barangay," Arispe said.

Erquiaga decided to display the body in a "street parade" in honor of those gallant Bicolano soldiers and martyrs during the war against the Japanese occupation forces, he said. The Spaniard later had a monument built in its honor at the pier, where visitors could easily notice it.

The late Mariano Goyena del Prado, who wrote several books about Bicol history, said the monument indeed symbolized Legazpi's guerrilla-martyrs who fought for the liberation of the city against the Japanese soldiers.

Only Erquiaga possessed the documents or pictures pertaining to the headless body since it was accidentally discovered in 1945. However, from the time of his death on Oct. 22, 1959 up to his family's departure from Bicol for Spain, no single material was left, except the small edifice at the pier.

Even the National Historical Institute has no record of this event. Neither has any local historian done any research about it, said Erlinda-Belleza, Legazpi Museum curator, adding that most people now simply ignored the statue or treat it as any ordinary structure.

Incomplete symbolism

In 1997, the monument was transferred to its present site in front of the Legazpi Post Office building. The bones and some "valuable things" that were beside the body when it was found and placed under the monument were no longer there, prompting some local historians, including Kilon Goyena, to remark that the work was an "incomplete symbolism" of heroism and martyrdom.

Goyena, 85, is the son of the late Mariano Goyena del Prado and former chair of the Historical Institute of Legazpi City.

Lola Pacita said she also believed that there was no need to question the headless body's identity. "The most important thing is its historical importance to the region, in general, and to Legazpi City, in particular," she said.


Many residents are now clamoring for the return of the monument to Sabang as they have noted its neglect.

When it was still in their village, they claimed, it was strategically located and properly maintained, and many visitors had taken cognizance of the headless hero.

Since it was transferred downtown, they said, the people have not shown any "cultural sensibility." The monument has become just a regular "tambayan" or parking area. Worse, it is now splattered with election posters on its sides.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Guarding the Guard Dogs?
Are you a dog "owner"—or a dog "guardian"?

By Jon Katz

Last month, In Defense of Animals, a California-based animal rights organization, sent me some materials about its "Guardian Campaign." A polite letter complimented me on my most recent book, then requested that I use the term "guardian" rather than "owner" in future writings about dogs.

The benefits of relating to animals as guardians rather than as owners would be "far reaching," wrote IDA president Dr. Elliot Katz (who's no relation). Changing how we speak would help change how we act. In a world where dogs are protected rather than owned, Katz argued, it would be easier to crack down on animal abuse, end the puppy-mill trade, and stop the killing of animals at shelters.

As a dog lover, owner of a rescue dog, and member of two rescue groups, I'm not convinced there will be concrete benefits from this metaphoric, even Orwellian revolution. How exactly will these semantic changes improve the lot of animals? Why can't we shut down puppy mills, end some cruel animal research, save the lives of dogs and cats in shelters, prosecute animal abuse, and still call ourselves "owners"?

IDA's letter proudly pointed out that San Francisco; West Hollywood; Berkeley, Calif.; Boulder, Colo.; Amherst, Mass., and the state of Rhode Island have already enacted ordinances changing owners into guardians. (Some of those jurisdictions have also embraced the animal-rights movement's other language crusade, changing "pets" into "companion animals.")

Although IDA cited these cities and state as evidence that the notion of "guardian" is spreading, to me it suggests the opposite: Its successes are confined to left-wing pockets. I'll be impressed when Kansas City takes up the idea.

Social movements are only as effective as their ability to win popular support. I'm currently living in rural upstate New York, and I showed the IDA packet to Sandra, a sheep farmer who lives down the road with her female partner. She was shocked. "I love my Rottweiler," Sandra told me. "But I'd love to marry my partner and I can't. I have to say I'm a bit uncomfortable with dogs having more rights than I do. Me first." Sandra had just filed legal papers to have her partner declared her legal guardian in the event of serious illness. She said she was not about to do the same for her dog.

I reminded Sandra that animal rights don't really come at the expense of human rights—there's no reason both species can't have some protection. But her reservations are important. Easing animal suffering is inarguably worthwhile; turning animals into a kind of human is another matter.

And such a transformation seems the goal of some animal activists. My IDA packet contained a testimonial from a Michael Mountain of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. "People of other genders, races and even age groups were once treated as property in this country," Mountain wrote. "Now, it is time for 'people' of other species to be accorded the same simple dignity of being recognized, not as someone else's property but as beings in their own right."

Mountain couldn't have made the point more dramatically—or offensively. I don't care to jump in with a moral value system that equates my beloved border collies with human slaves. Nothing about this comparison helps animals. It distorts their true natures and diminishes ours.

The guardian campaign is a vivid example of the growing tendency to blur the boundaries between us and our pets. Many Americans have already stopped seeing their dogs and cats as animals. They're family members, emotional support systems, metaphors for issues from our own pasts, aids for healing and growth, children with fur.

Seeing them the way we see ourselves—as having human thoughts and needs, human rights—is another kind of abuse and exploitation. It is cruel to crate a child, but it's often helpful and soothing to crate a dog. No human would want to spend five minutes in a kennel, yet good kennels, much maligned by deeply attached pet owners, are often the safest and best places to leave dogs when we leave home.

Seeing dogs as piteous, deprived, abused, and needy can lead us to treat them unwisely. Vets cite overfeeding and the resultant epidemic obesity as a major killer of dogs and cats in America. Yet I can't count how many times I've heard somebody say, "I feed him because I just can't bear to starve him." Or "I just can't resist when he begs for food. He's so cute." Any vet or animal nutritionist would tell these people that they're doing as much harm to their cute little beggars by overfeeding them as they would by kicking them.

People who see their dogs as humanlike often struggle to train them properly, especially if they believe they were abused or mistreated. Owners sometimes think their dogs have already suffered so much that they couldn't possibly inflict any more criticism. Yet it's that very firm, effective training that would make those dogs happier and more secure. And what about the growing number of owners who find neutering cruel or unbearable, because they would find it so? Refusing to neuter may put their own pet or someone else's in danger—causing aggression, running away, and unwanted litters. Or the pet owners who make their dogs hyper by believing they need to "play" continuously, like overprogrammed boomer children? They drag them to unruly play groups, toss Frisbees and balls night and day, haul them to an endless round of organized activities—but fail to teach them how to be calm.

The humanlike view of dogs affects the decision about when to euthanize a sick or elderly pet. I recently attended two veterinary conventions where scores of vets told me their biggest recent problem is people who see their pets as so human that they simply cannot end their lives or suffering, no matter the cost or the pain.

There is no evidence that dogs have the kind of complex emotional lives and value systems that we do. It's one reason why we love them so much, in fact. They are neither "good" nor "bad." They don't hold grudges, act in petty ways, or seek revenge. They read our moods, but not our minds. If they did, we'd start loving them as we love other humans—which could mean a lot less than we love them now.

Dogs are not "people" of another species. They are another species. To train and care for them properly, to show them how to live in our complex world, requires first and foremost that we understand that. I owe my dogs much—more than I can say—but they are not my "companions"—as if we voluntarily chose to hang out together but none of us has authority over the others. I bought and/or acquired them. I own them. I am profoundly responsible for their care and well being.

Guardianship, a word always applied to human beings, implies equality—the highest and perhaps most noble of all goals in this democratic nation. Ownership implies responsibility. Americans who own dogs need to be more responsible for them, literally and emotionally—not more equal to them.

The drama of the modern dog is that he is segregated from society—from work, children, public places—and then blamed for not knowing how to live in our world. The things he wants to do—have sex, roll in gross stuff, roam freely, squabble with other dogs, chew shoes, pee on every other tree—are either illegal or frowned upon. His challenge isn't to become a free and equal person in the best traditions of our society but to learn how to live in the alien world of people.

Guardianship suggests dogs have a right to live their own lives as they wish. This is impossible in our dog-unfriendly world. Ownership implies a human duty to help the dog adjust to this difficult, inhospitable place.

"Dog owner" is a proud title. It suits me fine.

Coney Reyes on the perils & pleasures of single parenting
FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo
The Philippine Star 03/10/2004

"Did you know that 20 years ago, nine out of 10 Filipino children looked up to their parents as role models?" asked Maricel Laxa-Pangilinan. "Today, only four out of 10 kids admire their moms and dads."

Sad, isn’t it?

According to Maricel, kids turn more to movie stars and sports stars as role models. Bad news for parents, isn’t it?

In an effort to "re-inspire" children to appreciate and admire their parents more and better, Maricel and husband Anthony Pangilinan have spearheaded the Philippine Parenting Convention first held in 2002 and will be held again on March 13 and 14 (Saturday and Sunday) at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel, in cooperation with Goldilocks, PLDT, Alaska Milk, Aboitiz, Manila Pearl Furniture and Café Lupe.

One of the resource speakers is Coney Reyes who, everybody will agree, has been exemplary in her role as single parent for 20 years now, instilling in her children Christian values. Coney separated from (the late) Larry Mumar in 1984 (their marriage was eventually annulled). She has two children by Larry, L.A. (25, who married Macy Mendoza in September last year) and Carla (who’s taking up Communication Arts at St. Paul College), and Vico (14, by Vic Sotto, a 9th grader at Brent International).

"L.A. is now a pastor," volunteered Coney who has been preaching the Bible herself as member of the Victory Christian Fellowship. "Both he and Macy were ‘pure and holy’ when they got married – I mean, virgin. Macy, also from Poveda and Ateneo like L.A., is also a Christian. And so is Vico."

So what are the perils of being a single parent?

"You know," Coney started, "it’s really difficult to raise your children alone. You can get into a self-pity mode; you’re bound to, especially when you see a complete family and your problems never seem to end. But that was in the early part. How long did it take me to overcome that period? A few years later – when I surrendered my life to The Lord in 1990. It was my surrender that helped me a great deal."

Coney joined the Victory Christian Fellowship where she began building relationships with fellow members (with whom she can exchange words of advice and wisdom, and "counseling") and introducing her children to role models. She also attended seminars on raising small children and teenage children. "Raising kids and raising teenagers are two different things," she stressed.

People almost always expect children of broken homes to be wayward. But not in the case of Coney’s children. "It’s not true," L.A. said in his testimony. "We never went astray at all."

Besides introducing God to her children, Coney likewise set herself as an example by getting away from her "sin" (referring to her affair with Vic Sotto).

"What would my children say if I didn’t correct that ‘sin’? I couldn’t tell them not to do this and not to do that because they could always say, ‘Look at you! What are you doing?’ I really had to make a lot of sacrifices and be obedient to The Lord. My children and I are like barkada. We talk a lot, I encourage them to speak their minds.

"But even if I treat them as friends, I never let them overlook the fact that I’m still their mom. Iba ’yung authoritarian from being an authority figure. God has put you there as a parent to your children, you are responsible for your children up to a certain age. Once they are adults, they are responsible for themselves. You just have to be rest assured that if you train your children in the way of The Lord, they will never depart from it."

The pleasures (rewards) are overwhelming.

"You know," said Coney, "I’m so happy to see my children obeying The Lord, fulfilling their dreams and pursuing the right direction. Carla has always been a consistent awardee in her film projects in school and in elocution. Vico is doing well in his studies and is an usher in our church, while L.A. is pastoring at VCF. We have a lot of fun together. We discuss all kinds of issues, from the political to the personal."

Several years ago, Coney was diagnosed with throat cancer and that proved to be the most trying period of her life.

"I would find myself crying," recalled Coney who has been healed. "I said, ‘Lord, I love my children but I know that You love them more.’ I wasn’t worried about myself but about my children. I asked The Lord to please take care of them."

Three of the many values Coney has instilled in her children are, 1) fear of The Lord, 2) respect for authority, and 3) being responsible.

"By fear of The Lord, I mean obedience to Him. Takot sa Diyos in awe and reverence. Parang, ‘Wow, God, You’re awesome!’ You know, if you obey God, blessings will follow, if you disobey God, be ready for the consequences.

"By respect for authority, I means acknowledging and respecting the authority that God has put over your life, including respect for other people.

"By being responsible, I mean being responsible for your actions and for everything that you do, and what you are supposed to do."

In a way, added Coney, she’s bringing up her children the same way she was brought up by her parents, Hermann Nubla and Noemi Reyes, both dead, whom Coney described as "thoughtful, sweet and loving."

"The only difference," she clarified, "is that during our time, young people were raised na takot sa parents; now, the takot is still there but you also encourage your children to be open with you."

Now a Golden Girl, Coney doesn’t discount the possibility of getting married again.

"I am, yes, open," admitted Coney, "but I am not looking for it. By ‘open,’ I mean I’m open to the plans of The Lord for my life. He knows what’s best for me. If God wants me to get married again, maybe He will send me the right guy. But right now, I’m so happy and contented with my life that marriage is not among my plans."

Bliss in solitude. Loveless but not lonely. Single but, ehem, satisfied.

"You can be a single parent and live a full life."

Monday, March 08, 2004

Artists speak up, politicians spell out
Posted: 11:15 PM (Manila Time) | Mar. 07, 2004
By Amadís Ma. Guerrero, Contributor
Inquirer News Service

Platforms for art and culture

HEY, treat us with respect. Treat us as equals. We are also involved in national development. We are two million-strong. We are not just entertainers. We are a force to reckon with. In the smithy of our souls, we are forging the uncreated conscience of the race (the latter with apologies to James Joyce).

These were among the battle cries and exhortations floated by artists from different sectors during the recent Arts Congress, christened Kilos Kultura para sa Kinabukasan. It was convened by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in coordination with the Film Development Council of the Philippines, and held at the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas (Folk Arts Theater).

Presidential candidates were invited to present their platforms for art and culture.

Former senator Raul Roco and evangelist Eddie Villanueva spoke. President Macapagal-Arroyo was a no-show. Actress Susan Roces was expected, but only sent a message to be read. She was at Plaza Miranda. (It was the day the Supreme Court was hearing the disqualification case against her husband Fernando Poe Jr.)

As expected, Roco, always an effective public speaker, had the most impact upon the throng. Artists of the Philippines should be respected, Roco said, because-like the works of Michelangelo -- "they can be remembered forever and a day."

Artists also have a long memory, the former education secretary opined. He cited the Michelangelo paintings he had seen in the Sistine Chapel as a student. The mayor of Rome had given the great Florentine artist a hard time and so, according to Roco, Michelangelo made this mayor the model for one of his demons in the painting.

The standard-bearer of Alyansa ng Pag-asa said his vision and that of his political party is "a creative people and a self-reliant nation united under God." And creativity should be enhanced through traditional and modern art. "Help us accomplish that dream under a Roco administration," he added.

Frustrated poet

A frustrated poet and wide reader, the former senator cited the works of Rizal and Balagtas, observing that "it was the artists, the poets, who gave us a sense of nationalism. Only the artist can give beauty to the nation."

It was Roco who drafted the last will and testament of the late National Artist Cesar Legaspi, and as a reward he received a "trophy painting" in different shades of green. And he had asked Legaspi: "Ka Cesar, how can you paint like that when you are color-blind?"

And the artist, according to Roco, replied "you must find the colors in you." The presidential candidate concluded: "The government must enhance the colors of the Filipino, and only then will the Philippines grow."

Activist turned preacher

Villanueva recalled that he was once a radical activist facing arrest by the State. Instead he was "arrested" by the Lord Jesus. He indicated that the main problem of the country was "endemic, widespread corruption" and cited a US investment house report that in the Philippines, 248 billion dollars has been wasted due to corruption.

"Kaya walang pera para sa sining at kultura (and that's why there is no money for art and culture)," he said.

If elected, the standard-bearer of Bangon Pilipinas said his administration will give the arts full support ("No. 1 susuportahan"). The arts will be "a tool for national development, a pangunahing (first) army for national transformation, and there will be outreach projects all the way to the barangay."

Actress Boots Anson Roa, a senatorial candidate, sounded a different call when she called attention to the "concerns, anxiety" not just in the country but in the world: "With globalization, values have been waylaid in search of the almighty US dollar."

And so she called for a return to our roots: "Balikan ang ating ugat-the family, the immediate family as well as the family of cultural workers."

Comedienne Mitch Valdez declared that "artists are citizens too and should be treated as such. We have proven our cause to governance. Name any campaign, and there's an artist there. From the next administration we expect a Magna Carta for the welfare of the Filipino artist. We are tired of hearing about a Filipino artist dying a pauper when there are people becoming rich on his works."

Hello out there on the campaign trail! Are you politicians listening?

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Worry vs. Reality: The Real Risks You Face
When weighing risks, don't let your heart overrule your head.

By Neil Osterweil

Woody Allen defined major surgery as "anything being done to me."

When it comes to evaluating medical risk -- or risk of any kind, for that matter -- it gets very personal, and when we're weighing threats to ourselves or to others we care about, we tend to think with our hearts rather than our heads.

As Seen on TV

A sobering example of emotions overcoming reason when weighing personal risk came in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, when many people who were frightened by images of airplanes crashing into buildings took to the roads instead of flying. But according to the National Safety Council, your lifetime odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 242, compared with 1 in 4,608 of dying in all "air and space transport" mishaps combined. Take the bus, and those odds shrink to about 1 in 179,000.

One picture can indeed be worth a thousand words, and public perceptions about risk are often shaped by television news, which has immediacy and visceral impact, but might not provide careful reflection or thoughtful analysis.
Cause of Death . . . . . . . . . . Lifetime Odds of Dying*

Car crash . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 in 242

Drowning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 in 1,028

Plane crash . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 in 4,608

Lightning strike . . . . . . . . . . 1 in 71,501

Bitten by dog . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 in 137,694

Venomous spider bite . . . . . 1 in 716,010
*for someone born in 2000
Source: National Safety Council

"In my opinion, it has a lot to do with the way the media handles the reporting of it. I think there are times when the media tends to overstate certain issues especially when it comes to medical problems. Obviously the media is very helpful in disseminating information, but if things are overstated, then they can result in people overreacting," Michael I. Greenberg, MD, MPH, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Medical Risk, tells WebMD.

What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

Remember the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) panic of 2003? According to the CDC, there were161 possible cases of SARS in the United States, and out of that number a total of eight were confirmed as having SARS; the remainder were classified as "probable" or "suspect" cases, and there have been no SARS-related deaths in the United States to date.

In contrast, every year approximately 36,000 Americans die from the flu, which is far more common than SARS, and just as easily transmitted. So why do stories about flu outbreaks only occasionally make headlines or lead the evening news, while small threats such as SARS capture all the media glare?

One reason, says David Ropeik, director of risk communication at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis in Boston, is that when it comes to risk, familiarity breeds concern.

"Fear has intuitive characteristics which are more powerful than the probabilities and the scientific facts. For example, cancer kills us in a dreadful way, and the nastier a way it is to die, the more afraid of it we are likely to be. That is our perception of what to be afraid of," Ropeik tells WebMD.

The American Heart Association has struggled with this problem for years. That's why it recently launched its high-visibility "Go Red for Women" campaign to coincide with the release of heart disease prevention and treatment guidelines. The AHA points out that cardiovascular diseases -- heart disease and stroke -- kill nearly half a million American women every year, accounting for more deaths annually than the next seven causes of death (including breast cancer and all other forms of cancer) combined.
Cause of Death . . . . . . . . . . Prevalence

Heart disease . . . . . . . . . . . 1 of every 2.6 deaths

Heart disease (women) . . . . . 1 of every 2.5 deaths

Cancer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 of every 4 deaths

Breast cancer (women) . . . . . . 1 of every 30 deaths
Sources: American Cancer Society, American Heart Association

"Unless a woman perceives herself to be vulnerable, she's not going to heed a preventive message. It only resonates when you realize there may be a personal risk," Nanette K. Wenger, MD, professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, tells WebMD.

"When it comes to health care, people do not put the equivalent amount of worry to what the experts throughout health care tell them are the biggest risks. Smoking, obesity -- there's a disconnect between what the figures and the facts will tell us and how people in general treat those risks in their mindset," Paling says.

In their book Risk! A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Dangerous in the World Around You, Ropeik and co-author George Gray, PhD, list factors that shape our perceptions of risk.
• We have a greater fear of human-made risks than natural risks (such as radiation from nuclear waste exposure, which is rare, rather than from sun exposure, which is common).

• Voluntary risks such as smoking, poor diet, dangerous forms of recreation are seen as less threatening than risks over which we may not have direct control, such as air pollution or someone else's drunk driving.

• We have a greater fear of risks from unknown or untrusted sources. "Imagine being offered two glasses of clear liquid," Ropeik and Gray write. "One comes from Oprah Winfrey. The other comes from a chemical company. Most people would choose Oprah's, even though they have no facts at all about what's in either glass."

We Can't Help Ourselves

Blame it on human nature. Our bodies are primed by millions of years of evolution to react first and think later by pumping out stress hormones such as adrenaline (also called epinephrine) when we're suddenly confronted with the choice of fight or flight. Those hormones get the heart racing, send the blood pressure soaring, put muscles on alert, and help prepare our bodies for outrunning a snarling dog, mugger, or saber-tooth tiger.

"The whole topic of understanding risks these days tends to be based on facts," Jon Paling, PhD, founder and research director of the Risk Communication Institute in Gainseville, Fla., tells WebMD.

"However, humans as a species have had to deal with risks from our earliest tribal and pre-tribal days, and clearly those that were best at surviving risks were the ones that propagated the next generation, so we have very, very deeply seated, hard-wired responses to risks that have nothing to do with graphics or numbers, because in essence the human species has had to be geared up to intuitively deal with risk over eons."

But that instinct for self-preservation can also cause us to put ourselves in, rather than out of, harm's way. For example, when you're being charged by a grizzly bear, wildlife experts recommend that you stand your ground. But do you listen to your brain telling you to stay still, or to your guts screaming, "Get me outta here!"

Is It Safe?

The keys to making clear-headed decisions about specific risks, experts agree, are knowledge and trust, and both health-care consumers and their doctors have an important role to play in informing patients about medical risks.

"I work at a university training center and we try to emphasize that to our residents: Every time you're with a patient is a teachable moment and you can use that moment to re-orient patients about the biggest risks that they should be concerned about and have an intelligent discussion with them about the risks that maybe are important to know about but that they don't need to be obsessed over, compared to more life-threatening risks." says Greenberg.

Paling puts it this way: "If a doctor or a surgeon is not responsive to questions or shrugs them off as being unimportant, then the risk gets bigger. When the patient really trusts the doctor, the risk automatically has gotten far smaller in perception. Trust may or not be justified, but it's a factor."

Sensible risk avoidance is also a matter of self-awareness, Ropeik tells WebMD.

"We have to understand that there are these emotional prisms that filter the facts into the decisions that we make. We have to recognize that that can be dangerous, if we underestimate a risk or overestimate it, we might not take proper precautions. We might be worried, too stressed; and stress is bad for our health."

His take-home message? "Seek out trusted, trustable sources of information, and work a little harder at being informed."

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

New Zealand fetes 'Lord of the Rings'
Posted: 10:13 PM (Manila Time) | Mar. 02, 2004
Agence France-Presse

AUCKLAND -- New Zealand's parliament Tuesday passed a unanimous resolution welcoming the Oscar successes of "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," as news media gave saturation coverage to the feat.

Sunday's sweep by the movie at the 76th annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood rivaled the record set by the Titanic in 1997 and 1959's Ben Hur, which also scored 11 Oscars apiece.

The top-circulation New Zealand Herald proclaimed filmmaker Peter Jackson "The Lord of the Oscars" and devoted half the front page to a picture of him brandishing his Oscar for best director.

Its first five pages were devoted to "New Zealand at the Oscars".

Said one story: "Again and again, the New Zealand accent was heard across the world, thanking co-workers at home."

The Wellington Dominion Post, Jackson's hometown newspaper, celebrated the "Lord of the Oscars" and added "As big as Ben-Hur" and "it's no fantasy -- Jackson rules at Oscars".

The Christchurch Press devoted its first three pages to the Oscars, under the banner headline "Hoard of the Rings".

Radio New Zealand's National Radio raised one reservation, with television commentator Tim OBrien saying the Oscar show was "terribly boring" and adding, "I am a bit afraid we won't ever be invited back because we took it over this time."

Radio and television stations carried extensive interviews with all the Oscar winners and many of their families.

Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast said she was considering holding an official welcome for the Oscar holders.

"We're talking with Peter Jackson, but he is very modest about all this," she said.

Jackson already has the traditional "freedom of the city", awarded after the second of the Rings' trilogy last year and the whole cast got a ticker tape parade at the world premiere of the third installment in October.

New Zealand authorities expect a new wave of tourists wanting to see the main locations used in the trilogy, including the Alexander family farm south of here, which was turned into "Hobbiton", the fictional hometown of the film's lead characters known as Hobbits.

Tourism Minister Mark Burton said Tuesday that 2003 was a record year for visitors but in January this year arrivals were 11 percent up at 244,300.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Dolphy a bigger hit than FPJ
By Cet Dematera
The Philippine Star 03/02/2004

LEGAZPI CITY — Residents here found "Action King" Fernando Poe Jr. a less interesting public speaker than "Comedy King" Dolphy when the two tried to hold together a crowd of about 5,000 until the end of a four-hour campaign rally here the other night.

The crowd around the stage built on Quezon Avenue Sunday started thinning out after Dolphy had delivered his message and while Poe was still addressing the audience.

As Vice Mayor Jess Salazar introduced Poe, the crowd inched toward the stage. However, a significant number started to leave when Poe began reciting lines from his films without mentioning a specific program for residents of the Bicol Region.

"Kahit butas ng karayom papasukin ko. Kapag puno na ang salop, hindi na sila sisikatan ng araw," Poe said.

Dolphy managed to woo the crowd back with his jokes, and told them that he no longer knew himself because of the many roles he has portrayed and the number of names he used as a show business personality.

He added that if Poe is disqualified from running in the presidential race for being an American citizen, he will stand by the action’s star side in an election campaign against United States President George W. Bush, who is running for re-election in November.

"Pag-nadisqualify ka (referring to Poe), lalabanan natin si Bush (If you’re disqualified, we’ll fight Bush instead)," Dolphy quipped, drawing applause from the crowd.

Lawyers who filed petitions before the Supreme Court to seek Poe’s disqualification said the actor, being an illegitimate child, should follow the citizenship of his mother, American Bessie Kelley.

Dolphy was the last celebrity that Poe himself had introduced to the crowd to endorse the candidates running under the banner of the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP).

A long, loud applause followed Dolphy’s speech. The crowd started to disperse even as Poe was still giving his closing remarks, which included, "Kunin na nila ang lahat sa akin ... huwag lang ang aking pagka-Filipino (They can take everything from me, but they cannot take away my being a Filipino)."

The emcees failed to hold the crowd’s attention for last-minute announcements after Dolphy bowed to the audience and handed the microphone back to Poe.

Some of those who attended and left before "Da King" finished his speech told The STAR they found nothing remarkable in Poe’s pronouncements.

"He told us nothing but either the titles of his movies or lines from these movies. He did not even mention any platform of government," said a clerk of a regional trial court here who attended the four-hour rally, which lasted until 11:30 p.m.

Observers here believed that most of the audience were interested only in seeing celebrities — Poe, Judy Ann Santos, and Eddie Garcia, who hails from Bicol — in the flesh.

Bicolanos are noted for not supporting candidates who do not have a track record and do not present a platform of government that will benefit the region.

Jovito Salonga emerged as the winner in Bicol during the 1992 presidential election. In the 1998 presidential race, Joseph Estrada lost convincingly to Bicolano candidate Raul Roco.

Organizers presented Poe and other show business personalities only after all the KNP candidates had delivered their speeches, in an attempt to keep the crowd from dispersing.