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July 20th, 2003
It's Not What You Have But Where It Points

People like Julia Roberts, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, and countless other show biz hotties, are renowned for their striking beauty and perfect bods. Some were born that way and others had a bit of help in the nip and tuck department. As for the rest of us? Either we apply for Extreme Makeover or get by with what we have, whatever that may be.
But aren’t we all just a nose job, chin or cheek implant away from being one of them? You know, one of those Beautiful People who stop traffic and turn heads like appetizers on a Lazy Susan? Perhaps it’s just my chunky thighs or short, pudgy nose with the flared nostrils that prevent me from being a drop-dead beauty, the kind that leaves people slack-jawed and gaping. One…

July 17th, 2003
Nickel and Dimed Chronicles the Hard Life of the Working Poor

Could you survive in a strange city on $7 an hour? This is the simple question that social critic and Ph.D. biologist Barbara Ehrenreich set out to answer. The 2001 bestseller Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America chronicles her lived research with biting insight, engaging detail, and a welcome dose of humor.
I will survive (but not on Wal-Mart wages)Leaving her home in Key West, Ehrenreich tries on life at the bottom of the wage scale. Working as a waitress, a nursing home aide, a maid, and a Wal-Mart “associate,” she very quickly discovers that full-time work does not keep her out of poverty. In fact, it doesn’t even keep her in an apartment.
Some of the information Ehrenreich shares…

July 14th, 2003
The Troubles and Triumphs of the Man Who Rode Seabiscuit

You have heard this story: it’s about a good man, a complex man who had the world at his feet, then watched it drop away; who gave generously, lived loudly, and died forgotten and in pain.
Extra weight
Before he jockeyed the great Seabiscuit, the gorgeously literate Johnny “Red” Pollard brooded much and saved little. In the Depression era, Pollard and his little horse?who, in a sleek Thoroughbred world, was cute where he should have been magnificent?held all 48 states in thrall. They won a great deal together. They would have won a great deal more if racing officials hadn’t continuously heaved up to 133 extra pounds onto Seabiscuit’s back to even the odds for lesser horses.
The stacks…

July 12th, 2003
Oscar-nominated Spellbound is letter-perfect

Renée LaReau (center, back) participated in the 1988 National Spelling Bee, where she was eliminated by the word ‘Terpsichore.’
You’re kidding, right?
So maybe watching 250 pimply, precocious adolescents spell words onstage isn’t exactly your idea of a good time?
Hey, don’t be so quick to scoff. ESPN now broadcasts the National Spelling Bee every year, and eight 1999 Bee participants are the subject of Spellbound, a new Oscar-nominated documentary co-directed by Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch. Spellbound made its sold-out debut in New York and Los Angeles in the spring and has opened across the country this summer to rave reviews.
An unexpected cross-section of the country…

July 12th, 2003
The Curious Novel Life of Pi Uncovers Real Faith

Though more than 90% of us in the U.S. say we believe in Him, God may seem no more real to many of us than, say, Arnold Schwarzeneggar?sure, we’ve seen Him in the movies (Morgan Freedman in Bruce Almighty, Alanis Morissette in Dogma ), but isn’t He making his big impact somewhere else (Sodom and Gomorrah? California?).
The mother of all precarious situations
Yet for our age of the secular believing, novelist Yann Martel has given us Life of Pi , “a story that will make you believe in God.” Not a miracle story, not a sentimental touched-by-an-angel story, this is the tale of Piscine Molitor Patel, an Indian teenager (named after a swimming pool in Paris) who has been set adrift on the Pacific…

July 10th, 2003
What W. Said on an Island off Senegal

July 10 — President Bush is off barnstorming Africa, and there’s been no shortage of drama from the very beginning.
On the Tuesday after the Fourth of July, the President of Senegal, Adboulaye Wade, literally took him by the hand as they toured Gor?e Island , the westernmost point in Africa.
Over a million slaves were sent to the Americas from the port at Gor?e Island.
The photographs and video show a disturbed George W. Bush, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security advisor Condoleeza Rice, their faces grave with the horror of historical memory. In the president’s speech, he went right to religious terms to get to the enormity of “one of the greatest crimes of history.”…

July 10th, 2003
The Professional Worrywart Stumbles Upon a Solution

Darn those yearbook photos?they always come back to haunt us and remind the world that yes, we once thought puka shell necklaces were the epitome of fashion.
But a study at U.C. Berkeley found that yearbook photos do more than verify bad taste. Old photos from the 1958 and 1960 yearbooks of Mills College in Oakland, California, were analyzed, and researchers discovered that women who looked the happiest went on to live the happiest lives. The study concluded that “individual differences in positive emotional expression were linked to personality stability and development across adulthood.”
This would explain why, in my college photo, my eyebrows are stitched together and I look gravely concerned.…

July 9th, 2003
Not Being a Mommy Isn't a Childless Abyss

Comfortably nestled in adulthood, I realize it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be a mother. Heck, in recent months I haven’t found a guy I want to share a dinner with, let alone my DNA.
But that’s okay. Because incredible as it may seem to some, motherhood has never been a goal.
As a child I never played with dolls, pretending they were my “babies.” I’ve never experienced pangs of envy when attending baby showers, or cradled a newborn, wishing it were mine. Not once have I ever turned the same shade of green that washes over me when, for example, someone gets a puppy or vacations in London.
Do I like kids? Absolutely. Will I regret not having any of my own? I doubt it. I recognize that…

July 6th, 2003
Paul Elie Knits Together the Lives of Four Astounding Writers

Paul Elie’s first book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own, takes its title from a short story by Flannery O’Connor.
In the story a tramp named Mr. Shiftlet marries and soon abandons a deaf and mute woman. Driving off, Shiftlet comes upon a hitchhiker and a highway sign that reads: “Drive carefully. The life you save may be your own.” For O’Connor the title is literal, then ironic, and ultimately mysterious, indicative of her gothic sensibility and self-proclaimed “working knowledge of the devil.”
Lives of startling graceElie uses the title earnestly as he traces the pilgrim’s progress of four Catholic American writers of the last century: Flannery O’Connor,…

July 6th, 2003
The Real Soul Mates I Can't Live Without

As a naive youth, I once believed my soul mate was just around the corner. Now well into adulthood, I suspect this corner resides in a parallel universe. My doppelg?nger is probably happily married to my Mr. Right. And me? I’m in this universe alone, a fairly successful single woman trying to make a decent go of it. If I had a hat to throw in the air, I’d be indistinguishable from an old Mary Tyler Moore repeat on TV Land.
Normally I’m content being single. The only time I feel alone is during a crisis. Then I curse the absence of a human being that is legally bound, by God and law, to provide that comforting hug when I need one.
Good connections
But really, neither God nor law can bind one person to another.…

July 1st, 2003
Poster Boy for Appalling Prelates and…Man of Faith

“My deepest vocation,” spiritual writer Henri Nouwen said, “is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.” Here’s one:
I attended Mass recently at the Cathedral in San Francisco where I live, and even though the space is lovely and the experience of worship good, since I had been in an ebb time, spiritually speaking, I didn’t expect to run smack into the Holy Spirit.
A priest who believed“The body of Christ,” he said, offering me the host. Truly the priest before me believed it was. I could see the faith, the hope, the expectation in the eyes which met mine.
I always like a priest who will meet your eyes when saying to you, “The body of…

July 1st, 2003
The Magdalene Sisters and Catholic Guilt

Guilt and shame are two Irish-Catholic traits that are as typical as corned beef and cabbage on St Patrick’s Day to Irish-Americans. It’s one thing to be Catholic, but to be an Irish-Catholic is a whole new ball of shameful wax.
When I was a child, the God I was taught to believe in was a judging God, and I think I spent more time trying to stay out of hell than I did practicing baseball.
The theme of Irish-Catholic guilt is placed at the center of the film, The Magdalene Sisters , where guilt chastises and shame paralyzes.
The Magdalene Laundries are a chapter of Catholicism that has been relatively unheard of outside of the Emerald Isle. Even in Ireland, the insular world of the laundries has been relatively…

June 29th, 2003
When All Is Stripped Away, We're Left with Love

My mom made delicious pies.
Her piecrust was one of the few things that she taught me to make. This was not because she did not want to share her tomato juice or strawberry jam secrets, but because I unfortunately did not have the patience or interest to learn when I was growing up.
My mom grew up on a one hundred acre egg farm in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She loved to tell me how, as a girl, she dreamed of having her own children run down the dirt road and into her open arms. I grew up on that same dirt road with my two younger brothers. My dad was from an actual town with stoplights, drug stores and a library, but when he married Mom, he agreed to move to her corner of the world.
Roots and wingsMom gave me roots, but often what I wanted…

June 24th, 2003
My Secret Plan for Father's Day

I don’t have high expectations for my Father’s Day celebration this year. Don’t get me wrong, we will undoubtedly celebrate. We will barbecue or break bread in some way. And hopefully, I’ll receive one or two hand-made cards (hopefully two, since I have two kids). Believe it or not, the reason I don’t have high expectations isn’t because our Mother’s Day celebration was such a disaster (though it was).
Happy %$#! Mother’s DayHere’s what happened, in a nutshell. This year, at least for one day, I really wanted the wife to feel the respect and love she deserved. But when I tried to enlist the help and participation of the two young people we live with, they…

June 24th, 2003
College Seniors Take a Spiritual Look at Graduation

Coming to the University of California at Santa Barbara was a very significant decision in my life. As I prepare to leave, I draw parallels between the new start that college brought me four years ago and the new start I will encounter as I graduate from UCSB in the coming month. Amongst all of the changes that I encounter and contrast one thing remains the same: God was, is, and will always be my companion.
Although this is true for all people, whether
we choose to see our relationship with God in this way or not, I feel it is especially significant to me because of the separations I have experienced from people who are close to me. When I was thirteen years old my mother, sister, and brother—the people who were most dear…

June 18th, 2003

My other name is Mr. Flag. It’s true?I’m a closet vexillologist . I study flags. I guess you’d say that qualifies me as a geek. Or maybe I’m just a pathological liar with a good flag collection.
Regardless, Independence Day is upon us, and with it my mailbox becomes stuffed with the questions people have about the U.S. Flag and its many uses. Following are some of the many that have graced my mailbox between June 14, Flag Day (one of the nation’s more obscure shopping holidays), and the big July birthday bash for the U.S. of A.
Q: Is it okay to fly the US flag upside down during hazing ceremonies at my dorm?
-Dominic Calamanci, Queens, NY
Mr. Flag: Unfortunately the flag can only be flown…

June 16th, 2003
As Seen from a Distance

Though Americans living abroad might technically be defined as expatriates (from the Latin “banished ones”), they generally tend to think of themselves more as roaming ambassadors of national pride.
Aasalaamu aleikum, pilgrim We normally head out with the cowboy mentality of heading off into the wild blue yonder with our brains and brawn, ready to conquer the wilderness. We arrive in our new surroundings excited to share with the locals the superiority of our culture, ready to demonstrate the genius of our ways, and expecting people to learn from us.
In short, we often arrive at our new destination ready to establish our own little piece of Americana, convinced that we will succeed just as readily…

June 15th, 2003
The Quieter National Pride of Canada Day

I’m relieved July 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, unattached to a weekend. It means, yay, that I won’t have to mark the Canada Day holiday by accompanying my husband on a three-night excursion to his parents’ lakeside “cabin.”
No toilet, no wayThere’s no way I’m up for lugging my two-year-old son and eight-months-pregnant belly off on a prolonged visit to a place with no running water or beds fit for sleeping. Yeah, the fresh air’s nice and the scenery is lovely, but right now I’m just too fat and uncomfortable to care. I’d be more gung-ho if there was an actual toilet.
My husband is among the many Canadians who love spending our country’s birthday…

June 12th, 2003
Does the Proverbial Tie Cut the Mustard?

When I talk to my father, the conversation usually sounds like this on my end: “Hi, Dad.”“Yes. Thank you.”“I know.”“Yes, the Bengals certainly do suck.”“No….Look, is Mom around?”

Division of laborMy mother is the emotional matrix of the family; all news, all announcements of parental displeasure, all verification of travel plans are transmitted through her. She keeps the checkbook, the phone list, the calendar. There is a type of cycle in progress here…my father goes to work, as his father did before him; only my father doesn’t beat me when he arrives home.
Since he’d had contact with no male role model, no loving structure…

June 9th, 2003
The World of Socially Responsible Investment

“More analysts are riding the bull,” read the headline in the Chicago Tribune recently.
Despite bad news from other sectors of the economy, the stock market seems to be on the rebound. With tech stocks including EBay, Yahoo, and Amazon hitting 52-week highs last month, the first evidence is in that the burst bubbles of the century’s turn might be behind us. The Down Jones Industrial Average, New York Stock Exchange, and even the wayward NASDAQ are all up for the year.
But before you bolster your mutual fund, or fork over more money for your 401(k), you might want to ask yourself, “What’s my money doing anyway?”
In the beginning…In the late 1960′s, a group of very creative…

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