Tuesday, July 3, 2007

6-year old girl charged with a felony ... that's what the cops call it

Is it strange that Larry was charged with petty larceny? No so much! In FL a six-year old was arrested, cuffed and charged.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Marmalade Ravioli anyone? The article from September 30, 2002 as scanned from Best American Essays 2003

BUMPING INTO MR. RAVIOLI, By Adam Gopnik The New Yorker

MY DAUGHTER, Olivia, who just turned three, has an imaginary friend whose name is Charlie Ravioli. Olivia is growing up in Manhattan, and so Charlie Ravioli has a lot of local traits: he lives in an apartment “on Madison and Lexington,” he dines on grilled chicken, fruit, and water, and, having reached the age of seven and a half, he feels, or is thought, “old.” But the most peculiarly local thing about Olivia’s imaginary playmate is this: he is always too busy to play with her. She holds her toy cell phone up to her ear, and we hear her talk into it: “Ravioli? It’s Olivia ... It’s Olivia. Come and play? OK. Call me. Bye.” Then she snaps it shut and shakes her head. “I always get his machine,” she says. Or she will say, “I spoke to Ravioli today.”“Did you have fun?” my wife and I ask. “No. He was busy working. On a television” (leaving it up in the air if he repairs electronic devices or has his own talk show).

On a good day, she “bumps into” her invisible friend and they go to a coffee shop. “I bumped into Charlie Ravioli,” she announces at dinner (after a day when, of course, she stayed home, played, had a nap, had lunch, paid a visit to the Central Park Zoo, and then had another iiap). “We had coffee, but then he had to run.” She sighs, sometimes, at her inability to make their schedules mesh, but she accepts it as inevitable, just the way life is. “I bumped into Charlie Ravioli today,” she says. “He was working.” Then she adds brightly, “But we hopped into a taxi.” What happened then? we ask. “We grabbed lunch,” she says.

It seemed obvious that Ravioli was a romantic figure of the big exotic life that went on outside her little limited life of parks and playgrounds — drawn, in particular, from a nearly perfect, mynah bird—like imitation of the words she hears her mother use when she talks about her day with her friends. (“How was your day?” Sighing: “Oh, you know. I tried to make a date with Meg, but I couldn’t find her, so I left a message on her machine. Then I bumped into Emily after that meeting I had in SoHo, and we had coffee and then she had to run, but by then Meg had reached me on my cell and we arranged ) I was concerned, though, that Charlie Ravioli might also be the sign of some “trauma,” some loneliness in Olivia’s life reflected in imaginary form. “It seems odd to have an imaginary playmate who’s always too busy to play with you,” Martha, my wife, said to me. “Shouldn’t your imaginary playmate be someone you tell secrets to and, I don’t know, sing songs with? It shouldn’t be someone who’s always hopping into taxis.”

We thought, at first, that her older brother, Luke, might be the original of Charlie Ravioli. (For one thing, he is also seven and a half, though we were fairly sure that this age was merely Olivia’s marker for As Old as Man Can Be.) He is too busy to play with her much anymore. He has become a true New York child, with the schedule of a cabinet secretary: chess club on Monday, T-ball on Tuesday, tournament on Saturday, play dates and after-school conferences to fill in the gaps. But Olivia, though she counts days, does not yet really have days. She has a day, and into this day she has introduced the figure of Charlie Ravioli — in order, it dawned on us, to insist that she does have days, because she is too harried to share them, that she does have an independent social life, by virtue of being too busy to have one.

Yet Charlie Ravioli was becoming so constant and oddly discouraging a companion — “He canceled lunch. Again,” Olivia would say — that we thought we ought to look into it. One of my sisters is a developmental psychologist who specializes in close scientific studies of what goes on inside the heads of one- and two- and three-year-olds. Though she grew up in the nervy East, she lives in California now, where she grows basil in her garden and jars her own organic marmalades. I c-mailed this sister for help with the Ravioli issue — how concerned should we be? — and she sent me back an e-mail, along with an attachment, and, after several failed cell-phone connections, we at last spoke on a land line.

It turned out that there is a recent book on this very subject by the psychologist Marjorie Taylor, called Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them, and my sister had just written a review of it. She insisted that Charlie Ravioli was nothing to be worried about. Olivia was right on target, in fact. Most under-sevens (sixty- three percent, to be scientific) have an invisible friend, and children create their imaginary playmates not out of trauma but out of a serene sense of the possibilities of fiction — sometimes as figures of pure fantasy, sometimes, as Olivia had done, as observations of grownup manners assembled in tranquillity and given a name. I learned about the invisible companions Taylor studied: Baintor, who is invisible because he lives in the light; Station Pheta, who hunts sea anemones on the beach. Charlie Ravioli seemed pavement-bound by comparison.

“An imaginary playmate isn’t any kind of trauma marker,” my sister said. “It’s just the opposite: it’s a sign that the child is now confident enough to begin to understand how to organize her experience into stories.” The significant thing about imaginary friends, she went on, is that the kids know they’re fictional. In an instant message on AOL, she summed it up: “The children with invisible friends often interrupted the interviewer to remind her, with a certain note of concern for her sanity, that these characters were, after all, just pretend.”

I also learned that some children, as they get older, turn out to possess what child psychologists call a “paracosm.” A paracosm is a society thought up by a child — an invented universe with a distinctive language, geography, and history. (The Brontës invented a couple of paracosms when they were children.) Not all children who have an imaginary friend invent a paracosm, but the two might, I think, be related. Like a lonely ambassador from Alpha Centauri in a fifties sci-fi movie who, misunderstood by paranoid Earth scientists, cannot bring the life-saving news from his planet, perhaps the invisible friend also gets an indifferent or hostile response, and then we never find out about the beautiful paracosm he comes from.

Don’t worry about it,” my sister said in a late-night phone call. “Knowing something’s made up while thinking that it matters is what all fiction insists on. She’s putting a name on a series of manners.”

“But he seems so real to her,” I objected.

“Of course he is. I mean, who’s more real to you, Becky Sharp or Gandalf or the guy down the hail? Giving a manner a name makes it real.”

I paused. “I grasp that it’s normal for her to have an imaginary friend,” I said, “but have you ever heard of an imaginary friend who’s too busy to play with you?”

She thought about it. “No,” she said. “I’m sure that doesn’t occur anywhere in the research literature. That sounds completely New York.” And then she hung up.

The real question, I saw, was not “Why this friend?” but “Why this fiction?” Why, as Olivia had seen so clearly, are grownups in New York so busy, and so obsessed with the language of busyness that it dominates their conversation? Why are New Yorkers always bumping into Charlie Ravioli and grabbing lunch, instead of sitting down with him and exchanging intimacies, as friends should, as people do in Paris and Rome? Why is busyness the stuff our children make their invisible friends from, as country children make theirs from light and sand?

This seems like an odd question. New Yorkers are busy for obvious reasons: they have husbands and wives and careers and children, they have the Gauguin show to see and their personal trainers and accountants to visit. But the more I think about this, the more I think it is — well, a lot of Ravioli. We are instructed to believe that we are busier because we have to work harder to be more productive, but everybody knows that busyness and productivity have a dubious, arm’s-length relationship. Most of our struggle in New York, in fact, is to be less busy in order to do more work.

Constant, exhausting, no-time-to meet-your-friends Charlie Ravioli—style busyness arrived as an affliction in modern life long after the other parts of bourgeois city manners did. Business long predates busyness. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when bourgeois people were building the institutions of bourgeois life, they seem never to have complained that they were too busy — or, if they did, they left no record of it. Samuel Pepys, who had a navy to refloat and a burned London to rebuild, often uses the word “busy” but never complains of busyness. For him, the word “busy” is a synonym for “happy,” not for “stressed.” Not once in his diary If the train crowded our streets, the telegram crowded our minds. It introduced something into the world which remains with us today: a whole new class of communications that are defined as incomplete in advance of their delivery. A letter, though it may enjoin a response, is meant to be complete in itself. Neither the Apostle Paul nor Horace Walpole ever ends an epistle with “Give me a call and let’s discuss.” By contrast, it is in the nature of the telegram to be a skeletal version of another thing a communication that opens more than it closes. The nineteenth-century telegram came with those busy threatening words “Letter follows.”

Every device that has evolved from the telegram shares the same character. E-mails end with a suggestion for a phone call (“Anyway, let’s meet and/or talk soon”), faxes with a request for an e-mail, answering-machine messages with a request for a fax. All are devices of perpetually suspended communication. My wife recalls a moment last fall when she got a telephone message from a friend asking her to check her e-mail apropos a phone call she needed to make vis-à-vis a fax they had both received asking for more information about a bed they were thinking of buying from Ireland online and having sent to America by Federal Express — a grand slam of incomplete communication.

In most of the Western world outside New York, the press of trains and of telegraphic communication was alleviated by those other two great transformers: the car and the television. While the train and the telegram (and their love children, subways and commuter trains and e-mail) pushed people together, the car and the television pulled people apart — taking them out to the suburbs and sitting them down in front of a solo spectacle. New York, though, almost uniquely, got hit by a double dose of the first two technologies, and a very limited dose of the second two. Car life — car obsessions, car-defined habits — is more absent here than almost anywhere else in the country, while television, though obviously present, is less fatally prevalent here. New York is still a subject of television, and we compare Sex and the City to sex and the city; they are not yet quite the same. Here two grids of busyness remain dominant: the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century grid of bump and run, and the late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century postmodern grid of virtual call and echo. Busyness is felt so intently here because we are both crowded and overloaded. We exit the apartment into a still dense nineteenth-century grid of street corners and restaurants full of people, and come home to the late- twentieth-century grid of faxes and e-mails and overwhelming incompleteness.

We walk across the Park on a Sunday morning and bump into our friend the baker and our old acquaintance from graduate school (what the hell is she doing now?) and someone we have been avoiding for three weeks. They all invite us for brunch, and we would love to, but we are too. . . busy. We bump into Charlie Ravioli, and grab a coffee with him — and come home to find three e-mails and a message on our cell phone from him, wondering where we are. The crowding of our space has been reinforced by a crowding of our time, and the only way to protect ourselves is to build structures of perpetual deferral: I’ll see you next week, let’s talk soon. We build rhetorical baffles around our lives to keep the crowding out, only to find that we have let nobody we love in.

Like Charlie Ravioli, we hop into taxis and leave messages on answering machines to avoid our acquaintances, and find that we keep missing our friends. I have one intimate who lives just across the Park from me, whom I e-mail often, and whom I am fortunate to see two or three times a year. We are always. . . busy. He has become my Charlie Ravioli, my invisible friend. I am sure that he misses me —just as Charlie Ravioli, I realized, must tell his other friends that he is sorry he does not see Olivia more often.

Once I sensed the nature of his predicament, I began to feel more sympathetic toward Charlie Ravioli. I got to know him better, too. We learned more about what Ravioli did in the brief breathing spaces in his busy life when he could sit down with Olivia and dish. “Ravioli read your book,” Olivia announced, for instance, one night at dinner. “He didn’t like it much.” We also found out that Ravioli had joined a gym, that he was going to the beach in the summer, but he was too busy, and that he was working on a “show.” (“It isn’t a very good show,” she added candidly.) Charlie Ravioli, in other words, was just another New Yorker: fit, opinionated, and trying to break into show business.

I think we would have learned to live happily with Charlie Ravioli had it not been for the appearance of Laurie. She threw us badly. At dinner, Olivia had been mentioning a new personage almost as often as she mentioned Ravioli. “1 talked to Laurie today,” she would begin. “She says Ravioli is busy.” Or she would be closeted with her play phone. “Who are you talking to, darling?” 1 would ask. “Laurie,” she would say. “We’re talking about Ravioli.” We surmised that Laurie was, so to speak, the Linda Tripp of the Ravioli operation — the person you spoke to for consolation when the big creep was ignoring you.

But a little while later a more ominous side of Laurie’s role began to appear. “Laurie, tell Ravioli I’m calling,” I heard Olivia say. I pressed her about who, exactly, Laurie was. Olivia shook her head. “She works for Ravioli,” she said.

And then it came to us, with sickening clarity: Laurie was not the patient friend who consoled you for Charlie’s absence. Laurie was the bright-toned person who answered Ravioli’s phone and told you that unfortunately Mr. Ravioli was in a meeting. “Laurie says Ravioli is too busy to play,” Olivia announced sadly one morning. Things seemed to be deteriorating; now Ravioli was too busy even to say he was too busy.

I got back on the phone with my sister. “Have you ever heard of an imaginary friend with an assistant?” I asked.

She paused. “Imaginary friends don’t have assistants,” she said. “That’s not only not in the literature. That’s just ... I mean — in California they don’t have assistants.”

“You think we should look into it?”

“I think you should move,” she said flatly.

Martha was of the same mind. “An imaginary playmate shouldn’t have an assistant,” she said miserably. “An imaginary playmate shouldn’t have an agent. An imaginary playmate shouldn’t have a publicist or a personal trainer or a caterer — an imaginary playmate shouldn’t have . . . people. An imaginary playmate should just play. With the child who imagined it.” She started leaving on my pillow real-estate brochures picturing quaint houses in New Jersey and Connecticut, unhaunted by busy invisible friends and their entourages.

Not long after the appearance of Laurie, though, something remarkable happened. Olivia would begin to tell us tales of her frustrations with Charlie Ravioli, and, after telling us, again, that he was too busy to play, she would tell us what she had done instead.

Astounding and paracosmic tall tales poured out of her: she had been to a chess tournament and brought home a trophy; she had gone to a circus and told jokes. Searching for Charlie Ravioli, she had “saved all the animals in the zoo”; heading home in a taxi after a quick coffee with Ravioli, she took over the steering wheel and “got all the moneys.” From the stalemate of daily life emerged the fantasy of victory. She had dreamed of a normal life with a few close friends, and had to settle for worldwide fame and the front page of the tabloids. The existence of an imaginary friend had liberated her into a paracosm, but it was a curiously New York paracosm — it was the unobtainable world outside her window. Charlie Ravioli, prince of busyness, was not an end but a means: a way out onto the street in her head, a declaration of potential independence.

Busyness is our art form, our civic ritual, our way of being us. Many friends have said to me that they love New York now in a way they never did before, and their love, I’ve noticed, takes for its object all the things that used to exasperate them — the curious combination of freedom, self-made fences, and paralyzing preoccupation that the city provides. “How did you spend the day?” Martha and I now ask each other, and then, instead of listing her incidents, she says merely, “Oh, you know ... just. . . bumping into Charlie Ravioli,” meaning, just bouncing from obligation to electronic entreaty, just spotting a friend and snatching a sandwich, just being busy, just living in New York. If everything we’ve learned in the past year could be summed up in a phrase, it’s that we want to go on bumping into Charlie Ravioli for as long as we can.

Olivia still hopes to have him to herself someday. As I work late at night in the “study” (an old hallway, an Aalto screen) I keep near the “nursery” (an ancient pantry, a glass-brick wall), I can hear her shift into pre-sleep, still muttering to herself. She is still trying to reach her closest friend. “Ravioli? Ravioli?” she moans as she turns over into her pillow and clutches her blanket, and then she whispers, almost to herself, “Tell him call me. Tell him call me when he comes home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Charlie Ravioli: A Somewhat Expanded Excerpt

This version includes the unedited article but truncated at the end:

BUMPING INTO MR. RAVIOLI. (busyness of life in New York City; effects on a child's imagination)
COPYRIGHT 2002 All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of The Conde Nast Publications Inc.

My daughter Olivia, who just turned three, has an imaginary friend whose name is Charlie Ravioli. Olivia is growing up in Manhattan, and so Charlie Ravioli has a lot of local traits: he lives in an apartment "on Madison and Lexington," he dines on grilled chicken, fruit, and water, and, having reached the age of seven and a half, he feels, or is thought, "old." But the most peculiarly local thing about Olivia's imaginary playmate is this: he is always too busy to play with her. She holds her toy cell phone up to her ear, and we hear her talk into it: "Ravioli? It's Olivia . . . It's Olivia. Come and play? O.K. Call me. Bye." Then she snaps it shut, and shakes her head. "I always get his machine," she says. Or she will say, "I spoke to Ravioli today." "Did you have fun?" my wife and I ask. "No. He was busy working. On a television" (leaving it up in the air if he repairs electronic devices or has his own talk show).

On a good day, she "bumps into" her invisible friend and they go to a coffee shop. "I bumped into Charlie Ravioli," she announces at dinner (after a day when, of course, she stayed home, played, had a nap, had lunch, paid a visit to the Central Park Zoo, and then had another nap). "We had coffee, but then he had to run." She sighs, sometimes, at her inability to make their schedules mesh, but she accepts it as inevitable, just the way life is. "I bumped into Charlie Ravioli today," she says. "He was working." Then she adds brightly, "But we hopped into a taxi." What happened then? we ask. "We grabbed lunch," she says.

It seemed obvious that Ravioli was a romantic figure of the big exotic life that went on outside her little limited life of parks and playgrounds--drawn, in particular, from a nearly perfect, mynah-bird-like imitation of the words she hears her mother use when she talks about her day with her friends. ("How was your day?" Sighing: "Oh, you know. I tried to make a date with Meg, but I couldn't find her, so I left a message on her machine. Then I bumped into Emily after that meeting I had in SoHo, and we had coffee and then she had to run, but by then Meg had reached me on my cell and we arranged . . .") I was concerned, though, that Charlie Ravioli might also be the sign of some "trauma," some loneliness in Olivia's life reflected in imaginary form. "It seems odd to have an imaginary playmate who's always too busy to play with you," Martha, my wife, said to me. "Shouldn't your imaginary playmate be someone you tell secrets to and, I don't know, sing songs with? It shouldn't be someone who's always hopping into taxis."

We thought, at first, that her older brother Luke might be the original of Charlie Ravioli. (For one thing, he is also seven and a half, though we were fairly sure that this age was merely Olivia's marker for As Old as Man Can Be.) He is too busy to play with her much anymore. He has become a true New York child, with the schedule...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Interview with a Witness to a Real Life Mr. Marmalade and Bradley

This NPR interview is a follow up to the story on Charlie Ravioli below:


Charlie Ravioli: a "Real Life" Mr. Marmalade

This excerpt is from The New Yorker

Adam Gopnik, "Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli," The New Yorker, September 30, 2002, p. 80

NEW YORK JOURNAL about the writer’s daughter’s imaginary playmate, Charlie Ravioli...

It seemed obvious that Ravioli was a romantic figure of the big exotic life that went on outside her little limited life of parks and playgrounds-drawn, in particular, from a nearly perfect, mynah-bird-like imitation of the words she hears her mother use when she talks about her day with her friends...

We thought, at first, that her older brother Luke might be the original of Charlie Ravioli. (For one thing, he is also seven and a half, though we were fairly sure that this age was merely Olivia’s marker for As Old as Man Can Be.)...

Charlie Ravioli was becoming so constant and oddly discouraging a companion-"He cancelled lunch. Again," Olivia would say-that we thought we ought to look into it. One of my sisters is a developmental psychologist who specializes in close scientific studies of what goes on inside the heads of one- and two- and three-year-olds...

I also learned that some children, as they get older, turn out to possess what child psychologists call a "paracosm." A paracosm is a society thought up by a child-an invented universe with a distinctive language, geography, and history. (The Brontës invented a couple of paracosms when they were children.) Not all children who have an imaginary friend invent a paracosm, but the two might, I think, be related...

The real question, I saw, was not "Why this friend?" but "Why this fiction?" Why, as Olivia had seen so clearly, are grownups in New York so busy, and so obsessed with the language of busyness that it dominates their conversation? Why are New Yorkers always bumping into Charlie Ravioli and grabbing lunch, instead of sitting down with him and exchanging intimacies, as friends should, as people do in Paris and Rome?...

We build rhetorical baffles around our lives to keep the crowding out, only to find that we have let nobody we love in...

I think we would have learned to live happily with Charlie Ravioli had it not been for the appearance of Laurie. She threw us badly. At dinner, Olivia had been mentioning a new personage almost as often as she mentioned Ravioli. "I talked to Laurie today," she would begin. "She says Ravioli is busy." And then it came to us, with sickening clarity: Laurie was not the patient friend who consoled you for Charlie’s absence. Laurie was the bright-toned person who answered Ravioli’s phone and told you that unfortunately Mr. Ravioli was in a meeting...

Writer tells about listening to Olivia mutter to herself about Ravioli...

(The New Yorker’s archives are not yet fully available online. The full text of all articles published before May, 2006, can be found in “The Complete New Yorker,” which is available for purchase on DVD and hard drive.)

N.J. Dialects

Since I grew up in NJ, the setting of the play, one of the cast members asked me about the dialect. NJ accents can vary greatly based on region and socio-economic background. They can range from very subtle to fairly noticeable. I found a resource for people to check out if they're interested. It really depends on the character and his/her age and upbringing as to which dialect might be closest to reality. The female recording is particularly striking in terms of how Emily may sound, for example. http://web.ku.edu/idea/northamerica/usa/newjersey/newjersey.htm

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hara-kiri: more to it than meets the abdomen

Hara-kiri is addressed several times in Mr. Marmalade, including a staged rendition. This photo (staged) shows a Seppuku (Japanese term for hara-kiri, often pronounced hara-hari in the U.S.) in ritual attire, with a second participant preparing to decapitate the victim after the left-to-right (and sometimes upward to end) abdomenal cutting is complete.

"Decapitation?" you ask, "But I thought hara-kiri was a form of suicide." Lose no further sleep over the topic.
This entry from http://www.bartleby.com/65/ha/harakiri.html nicely summarizes the practice:
Hara-kiri [Jap.,=belly-cutting], the traditional Japanese form of honorable suicide, also known by its Chinese equivalent, seppuku. It was practiced by the Japanese feudal warrior class in order to avoid falling into enemy hands. Around 1500, it became a privileged alternative to execution, granted to daimyo and samurai guilty of disloyalty to the emperor. The condemned man received a jeweled dagger from the emperor. He selected as his second a faithful friend, received official witnesses, and plunged the dagger into the left side of his abdomen, drew it across to the right, and made a slight cut upward; his second then beheaded him with one stroke of a sword, and the dagger was returned to the emperor.

And below is more information to help explain the practice and its history (from http://www.answers.com/topic/seppuku-1?cat=entertainment).
Seppuku is also known as hara-kiri (腹切り, "belly-cutting") and is written with the same kanji as seppuku but in reverse order with an okurigana. In Japanese, hara-kiri is a colloquialism, seppuku being the more formal term. Samurai (and modern adherents of bushido) would use seppuku, whereas ordinary Japanese (who in feudal times as well as today looked askance at the practice) would use hara-kiri. Hara-kiri is the more common term in English, where it is often mistakenly rendered "hari-kari."

OVERVIEW: Seppuku was a key part of bushido, the code of the samurai warriors; it was used by warriors to avoid falling into enemy hands, and to attenuate shame. Samurai could also be ordered by their daimyo (feudal lords) to commit seppuku. Later, disgraced warriors were sometimes allowed to commit seppuku rather than be executed in the normal manner. Since the main point of the act was to restore or protect one's honor as a warrior, those who did not belong to the samurai caste were never ordered or expected to commit seppuku. Samurai women could only commit the act with permission.

In his book The Samurai Way of Death, Samurai: The World of the Warrior (ch.4), Dr. Stephen Turnbull states:

Seppuku was commonly performed using a tanto. It could take place with preparation and ritual in the privacy of one's home, or speedily in a quiet corner of a battlefield while one’s comrades kept the enemy at bay.

In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced.

The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.

James Clavell, in Shōgun, says that seppuku may have originated, not as a positive good but as the lesser of two evils. The code of bushido, unlike the European codes of chivalry, didn't forbid mistreatment of prisoners or other helpless people. For this reason, a samurai had a reasonable expectation of being tortured after surrendering and would therefore be reluctant to be taken alive. (This would imply that Japanese tortures were unusually frightful, if seppuku was the lesser evil.)

RITUAL: In time, committing seppuku came to involve a detailed ritual. A Samurai was bathed, dressed in white robes, fed his favorite meal, and when he was finished, his instrument was placed on his plate. Dressed ceremonially, with his sword placed in front of him and sometimes seated on special cloths, the warrior would prepare for death by writing a death poem. With his selected attendant (kaishakunin, his second) standing by, he would open his kimono (clothing), take up his wakizashi (short sword) or a tanto (knife) and plunge it into his abdomen, making a left-to-right cut. The kaishakunin would then perform daki-kubi, a cut in which the warrior was all but decapitated (a slight band of flesh is left attaching the head to the body). Because of the precision necessary for such a maneuver, the second was often a skilled swordsman. The principal agreed in advance when the kaishaku made his cut, usually as soon as the dagger was plunged into the abdomen.

This elaborate ritual evolved after seppuku had ceased being mainly a battlefield or wartime practice and become a para judicial institution (see next section).

The second was usually, but not always, a friend. If a defeated warrior had fought honorably and well, an opponent who wanted to salute his bravery would volunteer to act as his second.

In the Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo wrote:

From ages past it has been considered ill-omened by samurai to be requested as kaishaku. The reason for this is that one gains no fame even if the job is well done. And if by chance one should blunder, it becomes a lifetime disgrace.

In the practice of past times, there were instances when the head flew off. It was said that it was best to cut leaving a little skin remaining so that it did not fly off in the direction of the verifying officials. However, at present it is best to cut clean through.

Some samurai chose to perform a considerably more taxing form of seppuku known as jumonji-giri (十文字切り, lit. "cross-shaped cut"), in which there is no kaishakunin to put a quick end to the samurai's suffering. It involves a second and more painful vertical cut across the belly. A samurai performing jumonji-giri was expected to bear his suffering quietly until perishing from loss of blood, passing away with his hands over his face.

SEPPUKU AS CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: While the voluntary seppuku described above is the best known form and has been widely admired and idealized, in practice the most common form of seppuku was obligatory seppuku, used as a form of capital punishment for disgraced samurai, especially for those who committed a serious offense such as unprovoked murder, robbery, corruption, or treason. The samurai were generally told of their offense in full and given a set time to commit seppuku, usually before sunset on a given day. If the sentenced was uncooperative, it was not unheard of for them to be restrained, or for the actual execution to be carried out by decapitation while retaining only the trappings of seppuku; even the short sword laid out in front of the victim could be replaced with a fan. Unlike voluntary seppuku, seppuku carried out as capital punishment did not necessarily absolve the victim's family of the crime. Depending on the severity of the crime, half or all of the deceased's property could be confiscated, and the family stripped of rank.

SEPPUKU IN MODERN JAPAN: Seppuku as judicial punishment was officially abolished in 1873, shortly after the Meiji Restoration, but voluntary seppuku did not completely die out. Dozens of people are known to have committed seppuku since then, including some military men who committed suicide in 1895 as a protest against the return of a conquered territory to China[citation needed]; by General Nogi and his wife on the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912; and by numerous soldiers and civilians who chose to die rather than surrender at the end of World War II.

CULTURAL IMPACT: Seppuku is occasionally used as a metaphor to imply excessive self-punishment.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sounds of Playing

I found a site that offers sound samples of babies crying and children playing. Just put the mouse pointer over the sample icon and it automatically plays. Perhaps it helps enhance the Dodgeball moment's ambiance.


Bad Horse Reference

The script's reference to "bad horse" might raise questions for the less street-smart. Contrary to a literal translation of Mr. Ed misbehaving, "bad horse" is a slang term for bad heroin.

Info on the drug from http://www.drugfree.org/Portal/drug_guide/Heroin explains some more about it. Here is an excerpt:
What are the street names/slang terms for

Big H, Blacktar, Brown sugar, Dope, Horse, Junk, Mud, Skag, Smack.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, which is obtained from the opium poppy. It is a "downer" or depressant that affects the brain's pleasure systems and interferes with the brain's ability to perceive pain.

What does it look like?

White to dark brown powder or tar-like substance.

How is it used?

Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on user preference and the purity of the drug. Heroin can be injected into a vein ("mainlining"), injected into a muscle, smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as "chasing the dragon," snorted as powder via the nose.
What are its short-term effects?
The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours.After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria ("rush") accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes "on the nod," an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Other effects included slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting, constipation.
What are its long-term effects?
Long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use for some period of time.Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin's depressing effects on respiration.In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not really dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect.

As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped. Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey"), kicking movements ("kicking the habit"), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last does and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health can be fatal.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dodgeball as Hope

Larry inviting Lucy to play Dodgeball provides an interesting insight into Larry's progression and Lucy's future. Dodgeball is for a group of players, which means it would require more than just Lucy and Larry. Has Larry made neighborhood friends following the birth of his clear desire to live? It's so touching when Bradley encourages her. The make-believe element gives permission for reality to gain momentum, possibly eliminating the make-believe and replacing it with a real future and hope for connection. Imagine the sounds of kids shouting and playing as the REAL games begin.

Playing Doctor

There are a few references to "playing doctor" in the script and one scene plays out the event, but what are the implications of the game? What is its significance in the play?

From http://www.drspock.com/:

Ask Dr. Needlman

Playing Doctor


Our neighbor boy is 5 years old, and every time he plays with our 5-year-old son, he asks our son to pull his pants down. We have talked to his parents (they are good friends of ours), and they have talked to their son, but he keeps doing it. We have told our son to come tell us when it happens, and he has done so. We already have made a rule that they are not allowed to play unsupervised. Should we be concerned about this type of behavior? Is it normal? (By the way, the little boy admits to his behavior and seems to know it's wrong and feels ashamed.)
— Concerned Mom


I think that it's normal for boys and girls who are 4, 5, and 6 years old to be very interested in their bodies, particularly their private parts. They are aware of the differences between boys and girls and men and women, and are very involved in figuring out their own sexual identities. Some amount of exploration with other children of either sex (often called "playing doctor") is really expected and normal.It's also reasonable for parents to put limits on this behavior. They can explain to their young children that certain parts of the body are private, and that means you don't show them to other people except under certain circumstances (e.g., in the doctor's office). They don't have to explain why, just mention it matter-of-factly as one of those rules that exists for polite, proper behavior.

From the standpoint of your own son, I think you are handling the situation well. You've set a reasonable limit for his behavior, and you are enforcing it. The more matter-of-fact you can be, the more comfortable your son will feel that he has not done anything wrong. Children do best when they can understand the rules about privacy without feeling that their bodies are something to be ashamed of.

Your son's friend has been told that his behavior is inappropriate, and yet he persists in his exploring game. When he's confronted, he feels bad and promises to stop. But the next time the opportunity to satisfy his sexual curiosity arises, the temptation is too great. This persistent interest may be completely normal, or it might reflect an uncomfortable preoccupation with sex.

Young children who have been exposed to sexual material of an adult nature sometimes have a lot of anxious feelings about sex. They may focus on genital exploration to the exclusion of other activities, or feel compelled to compare their own genitals to other children's to make sure they're okay. Of course, I don't know if any of these factors apply to your son's friend, but if his parents are concerned, they should seek consultation with a physician or a psychologist. Timely intervention by a trained therapist can be very helpful for children who have a great deal of anxious feelings about their sexuality.

Finally, a word about sexual abuse. Nothing in your case really suggests this, but it's something that parents often worry about. Children who have been sexually abused sometimes feel compelled to re-enact adult sexual acts. Usually this is not just a matter of playing doctor.

— by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Video of Hara Kari Reenactment

This could help Mr. Marmalade and Larry understand what Hara Kari looks like in action. Note: No actors were hurt in the making of this video (I presume):


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Meeting Everyone

Last night was the read-through and the script really came to life in a way I had not imagined based on my readings of the play. After perusing many reviews and seeing production stills online from other cities' premieres of the play, I was wondering how this production would differ and how unique the casting might be.

Shawn spoke at the beginning about the play being about "making belief" which is essentially "make-believe" and his reasons for wanting to produce the play. It touched on my reason for wanting to dramaturg it - because it cleverly addresses dramatic and harsh realities that I feel warrant addressing in our society, and how better to do so than through theatre.

Our cast is quite an impressive collection of talent incorporating a whole range of backgrounds, from those newer to the Boston theatre scene to more veteran thespians of Beantown. I sensed that everyone was really happy to be there and excited as the reading progressed, showing more and more depth to the play in the exchanges, all at once ridiculously funny and heart-breaking.

Here is the line-up of actors and a few things about their affiliations or past productions that I could find online. I think it's a testament to the collaborative spirit of Boston theatre that so many prominent and passionate theatre artists can come together like this. Speaking with a few of them after the reading, I anticipate a rich and fulfilling experience had by all!

Daniel Berger-Jones

Amanda Hennessey
www.essayons.org (under Creative)

Rachael Hunt

John Kuntz

Greg Maraio
www.wayplays.com (under Who's Who)

Mark VanDerzee
www.companyone.org (under Board of Directors)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Some More Images (Brave Girl, Cabo San Lucas, Versailles, Hara Kiri)

First Production Meeting

The 1st production meeting last night covered mainly scheduling and target dates for set, lighting, and sound design. An interesting concept arose that Shawn has in mind - to possibly incorporate a band that doubles as the cactus and sunflower, specifically the idea of working with Human Wine. Their myspace at http://www.myspace.com/HUMANWINE has tracks that can be played, as well as read some excerpts from reviews.

If they're not available, I mentioned the possibility of Michael O'Halloran's wife who I saw perform with her band a few years ago and thought their style might be along the same lines, with a more burlesque feel that could work given the adult themes of the play.

Miss Mary Mac! That's her stage name. I just found it online.

A Globe mention at:


That's an old article but I saw a post that she performed in November in Gloucester. So it's a possibility.

UPDATE: a little more digging unearthed her band's site at http://www.sukeytawdry.com
and her email at http://www.sukeytawdry.com/calendar.html which is:

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Image Photo 1

From time to time I may run across images that seem to evoke the world of the play, or some essence of it, and I'll post them. A precarious and isolationist tone to this one struck me. The text at its website says: "Dark matter - we can't see it, we can't detect it in any way, and yet it needs to be there in order for the universe to behave the way it does." I found the quote apropos, given our tale of a seemingly dark and unseen friendship.

Workaholism: The 'Respectable' Addiction

By Sid Kirchheimer WebMD Feature (http://men.webmd.com/guide/workaholism)
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

In Japan, it's called karoshi -- "death by overwork" -- and it's estimated to cause 1,000 deaths per year, nearly 5% of that country's stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60.

In the Netherlands, it's resulted in a new condition known as "leisure illness," estimated to affect 3% of its entire population, according to one study. Workers actually get physically sick on weekends and vacations as they stop working and try, in vain, to relax.

And here in the U.S., workaholism remains what it's always been: the so-called "respectable addiction" that's dangerous as any other and could affect millions of Americans -- whether or not they hold jobs.

"Yes, workaholism is an addiction, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's not the same as working hard or putting in long hours," says Bryan Robinson, PhD, one of the nation's leading researchers on the disorder and author of Chained to the Desk and other books on workaholism.

The Difference Between Hard Work and Workaholism

"Hard work put us on the moon and discovered vaccinations and built this country," he tells WebMD. "But hard workers generally have some balance in their lives. They sit at their desks and think about skiing. The workaholic is on the ski slopes thinking about work."

Their obsession with work is all-occupying, which prevents workaholics from maintaining healthy relationships, outside interests, or even take measures to protect their health.

"These are people who may have children, but miss Little League games and school plays when they don't have to, not because they have to be at work but because they feel they need to," says Tuck T. Saul, PhD, a psychotherapist in Columbus, Ohio, who frequently counsels workaholics. "They neglect their health to the point of devastating results and ignore their friends and family. They avoid going on vacation so they don't have to miss work. And even if they do go on vacation, they aren't fully present because their mind is still on work.

"As with any other 'aholism,' there is often a lack of understanding as to how their work addiction affects themselves and others," Tuck tells WebMD. "Often, they only realize their problem when something catastrophic happens to them -- their health completely fails or their marriage or relationships are destroyed."

Addicted to Adrenaline

Such was the case with Cheri, a 52-year-old nurse in California. Several years ago, she realized she was a workaholic and has since attended Workaholics Anonymous (WA) meetings once a week -- which like Alcoholics Anonymous -- has its own 12-step recovery program. Now, she volunteers to help others in the group's Menlo Park headquarters.

"I was wildly successful in my career, a very effective worker and my employers loved me," she tells WebMD. "But outside of work ... well, there was no outside of work. I never thought I had a problem until I tried to get into a close relationship, for something like the fifth time. That was my wake-up call, and it probably helped that my partner was in his own 12-step recovery for another addiction at the time. I took the 20-question quiz at the WA web site and 16 [of them] described me to a T. He was getting better and I realized I had my own addiction -- to adrenaline."

Don't laugh. Workaholics can have a physiologic need for that adrenaline rush, says Robinson, a psychotherapist in Asheville, N.C., and professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

"One thing that we do know is that workaholics tend to seek out jobs that allow them to exercise their addiction," he says. "The workplace itself does not create the addiction any more than the supermarket creates food addiction, but it does enable it. Workaholics tend to seek high-stress jobs to keep the adrenaline rush going."

This is true even if they don't work outside the home.

"We're seeing more women workaholics now because women are more visible in the workplace. But it's my belief that even before this trend, workaholics were doing this in the home," says Robinson. "It could be in their parenting to the point where there is nothing else to balance their lives, no hobbies or fun or spirituality, because they spend all their time as the PTA president, running the youth sports league, and being a Scout leader."

Disorders Often Stem From Childhood

Research shows that the seeds of workaholism are often planted in childhood, resulting in low self-esteem that carries into adulthood.

"Many workaholics are the children of alcoholics or come from some other type of dysfunctional family, and work addiction is an attempt to control a situation that is not controllable," he tells WebMD. "Or they tend to be products of what I call 'looking good families' whose parents tend to be perfectionists and expect unreasonable success from their kids. These children grow up thinking that nothing is ever good enough. Some just throw in the towel, but others say, 'I'm going to show I'm the best in everything so [my] parents approve of me.'"

The problem is, perfection is unattainable, whether you're a kid or a successful professional.

"Anyone who carries a mandate for perfection is susceptible to workaholism because it creates a situation where the person never gets to cross the finish line, because it keeps moving farther out," says Saul.

That is why despite logging in mega hours and sacrificing their health and loved ones for their jobs, workaholics are frequently ineffective employees.

Workaholic Styles

"Overall, workaholics tend to be less effective than other workers because it's difficult for them to be team players, they have trouble delegating or entrusting co-workers, or they take on so much that they aren't as organized as others," says Robinson.

In fact, his research indicates four distinct workaholic "working styles":

The bulimic workaholic feels the job must be done perfectly or not at all. Bulimic workaholics often can't get started on projects, and then scramble to complete it by deadline, often frantically working to the point of exhaustion -- with sloppy results.

The relentless workaholic is the adrenaline junkie who often takes on more work than can possibly be done. In an attempt to juggle too many balls, they often work too fast or are too busy for careful, thorough results.

The attention-deficit workaholic often starts with fury, but fails to finish projects -- often because they lose interest for another project. They often savor the "brainstorming" aspects but get easily bored with the necessary details or follow-through.

The savoring workaholic is slow, methodical, and overly scrupulous. They often have trouble letting go of projects and don't work well with others. These are often consummate perfectionists, frequently missing deadlines because "it's not perfect."

Getting Help

What can be done? Counseling is often recommended for workaholics, and support groups, such as Workaholics Anonymous, are beneficial, say the experts.

"It really comes down to recognizing a need for balance in your life," says Robinson. "Working hard is great, but you need to be able to turn if off and savor the other parts of your life -- friends, family, hobbies, and fun."

But many companies often confuse workaholics for hard workers, in essence enabling them on their path to self-destruction.

"I wouldn't say that corporations cause workaholism, but I think they truly support it," says Diane Fassel, PhD, president of Newsmeasures, Inc., a Boulder, Colo., business consulting firm, and the author of Working Ourselves to Death.

"Even though workaholism is the addiction de jour in American corporations, I'm not sure that many companies offer employee-assistance programs for it, as they do for alcohol or drug abuse," she tells WebMD. "Instead they often reward it."

The Debate Over the Addictive Personality and Gender Implications

(from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro04/web1/mcurtiss.html)
by MaryBeth Curtiss

Though alcoholism and other damaging addictions are often be traced as symptoms of depression and other emotional distress, the relatively new notion of the "addictive personality" has a significant community of supporters. According to its supporters, the addictive personality is a distinct psychological trait that predisposes particular individuals to addictions. While the nature and the very existence of this trait is still actively debated in the medical, neurobiological and psychology communities, there are definite implications in the brain that contribute to addiction. Also important to this debate are the issues of gender in relation to addiction and how these are and are not compatible with the addictive personality theory.

Addiction, as typically defined, is a reliance on a substance or behavior that the individual has little power to resist. This definition, however, fails to address the neurological aspects of this phenomenon. Dr. Alan Leshner, PhD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction instead as "a brain disease" and "a chronic relapsing disease", in that there are visible alterations in the brains of addicted individuals and these effects are long-lasting within their neurological patterns.(1)Also important in describing addiction is addressing the types of addiction and substance abuse that are often accredited to the addictive personality. There are two primary forms of addiction, one being the substance-based, the second being behavior-based.

The substance-based addictions, such as alcoholism, as well as nicotine, prescription and narcotic addictions, are more easily explained and identified neurologically. Particular drugs, such as crack and heroine cause massive surges in dopamine in the brain, with different sensations ranging from invincibility and strength to euphoric and enlightened states. Use of these substances almost immediately changes particular aspects of the brain's behavior, making most individuals immediately susceptible to future abuse or addiction.

Also common are the behavioral addictions including gambling, shopping, eating, and sexual activity. These addictions are not as easily explained neurologically, but are generally included in the addiction susceptibility characterized by the personality trait. Also common are sorts of combined addictions, that is, addictions that include both substance, as well as behavioral aspects, most commonly the addiction to nicotine, either smoking or chewing. This particular addiction combines a physical addiction to nicotine and a mental facet, the repeated routine of the behavior, such as a cigarette after meals.

Another issue interestingly related to addiction is the relative relationship between these abuses and addictions regarding gender. A collection of recent studies have shown that male adolescents are more active in early drug and alcohol experimentation and that men in general are four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol, twice as likely to routinely use marijuana, and one and a half times more likely to become addicted to cigarettes. Conversely, female adolescents are far more likely to experience the activities associated with behavioral addictions, and women far outnumber men in addictions to eating, binging and purging, thus developing eating disorders at a greater rate.(2)

This stratification may either evidence a key difference in the nature of addictive personalities and a link to gender, or it may discredit the theory as a whole, depending on perspective. It has been shown with other diseases, cancers and genetic traits that particular disorders favor one gender over another, therefore these statistics may show an interesting aspect of the genetic or neurobiological nature of the inherited trait. On the other hand, the variances in the addictions of men and women are often traced to societal values and the images presented to young men and women. In one interesting element of this debate, it seems that the popular image of alcohol consumption among Americans as in mass advertising is one that is largely geared towards men.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol consumption and drunkenness are less acceptable for women, such as uncontrolled behavior, lessened inhibitions and weight gain, while these are more acceptable for men. It also seems that popular images associated with cigarettes have a similarly masculine undertone, as the primary face of the tobacco industry, the "Marlboro Man" embodies popular American manhood like few other icons.

While no one has succeeded in proving the existence of a true addictive personality, many experts now believe that the predisposition to addiction is more accurately a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. Certainly, as with all issues of psychology and behavior, the distinct combinations of genetics and inheritance must be countered with an acknowledgment of environmental factors, and the biology of addiction is no exception.

1)Sommerset Medical Service Website: The Science of Addiction
2)Hendrick Health System Website: Addiction

Imaginary Friends: Should You Be Concerned

(from familyresource.com)
By: Armin Brott

Young children often have imaginary friends. Sometimes they're human, other times they're animals, like the life-size rabbit in the old Jimmy Stewart movie, "Harvey." Sometimes the imaginary friend is an occasional visitor, stopping by only once every few days. But other times it may be a child's constant companion. Children may talk to their imaginary friends, draw with them, or even read books to them. And plenty of parents have had to set an extra place at the dinner table for the "friend." So are children's imaginary playmates cause for concern? In most cases, the answer is No. Imaginary friends are a pretty normal part of growing up, especially during the toddler years, and they serve several important functions:

They can be wonderful companions for pretend play, which is an important way to stimulate creativity and imagination. Having an invisible friend can make those long trips to the moon or back in time a little less lonely.

They can act as a child's trusted confidant when there's no one else to tell their secrets to. Even small children have issues that are too private to tell us.

They can help kids figure out the difference between right and wrong. Kids sometimes have a tough time stopping themselves from doing things they know are wrong. Blaming the imaginary friend for eating cookies before dinner is often a sign that the child understands right vs. wrong distinctions but isn't quite ready to assume complete responsibility for her actions.

They can give you some valuable insights into your child's feelings. Listening to your child bravely comfort an invisible friend who's about to get a shot may be a clue that your child is more afraid than she's letting on.

While it's generally perfectly fine to humor your child and go along with her claims about the existence of an imaginary friend, there are a few ground rules:

Don't let the "friend" be your child's only companion. Kids need to socialize with others their own ages. If your child seems to have no other friends or has no interest in being with her peers, talk to your pediatrician.

Don't let your child shift responsibility for everything bad to the friend. Saying that the friend is the one responsible for a nighttime accident is okay. Blaming the friend for a string of bank robberies isn't.

Treat the friend with respect. This means remembering his name, greeting him when you meet, and apologizing when you sit on him.

Don't use the friend to manipulate your child. That means no comments like "Maggie finished her dinner, why don't you finish yours?"

Most kids lose their imaginary friends between their third and fifth birthdays. Sometimes the friends are forgotten, sometimes they're sent on a distant and permanent trip, and other times they "die" in a horrible accident.

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is the author of Father for Life, The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be; The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year, A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, Throwaway Dads, and The Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a Partner. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.

'Pretend' friends, real benefits (USA Today)

USA Today
Posted 12/19/2004 9:34 PM
'Pretend' friends, real benefits
By Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY

Children get by with the help of their friends, and imaginary friends might be some of the most helpful, suggests a study that challenges the traditional view that well-adjusted kids give up pretend pals after preschool.

About two-thirds of children have played with imaginary companions by age 7, and one-third still have them at 7, according to the first study that follows children's pretend play partners from age 3 through early elementary school.

Kids who have imaginary friends feel just as competent and popular as those who don't, and their personalities are no different, says Marjorie Taylor of the University of Oregon. She reported the study along with Stephanie Carlson in the latest issue of Developmental Psychology.

"Imaginary companions have had a bad rap from psychologists for a long time," Carlson says. Jean Piaget, an influential Swiss psychologist whose theories on early childhood development took hold in the 1960s, believed that these friends reflect immature thinking and should vanish by the time a child starts school.

But there has been little research on the purpose of pretend pals and whether school-age kids do shed them, Taylor says. Her study of 100 children finds that imaginary friends come and go. Some are invisible humans, the children say. The talking buddy also can be an animal, a doll or a GI Joe.

Just like any good friend, the imaginary friend offers companionship and entertainment and can help buck children up for tough times, researchers say. "It makes you feel brave to walk by that scary dog next door if you have an invisible tiger by your side," Taylor says.

Kids also use invented friends to practice conflict resolution, Carlson says. Parents who eavesdrop on pretend play can open a window into their child's world, says Barbara Willer of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. "It gives you insight into their fears and challenges."

One little girl told the researchers she has two imaginary friends: One helps her wait patiently until the busy one shows up. "You have to wonder if she might be talking about her parents," Taylor says.

In her study, 27% of children described pretend pals their parents didn't know about, she says. If they know, reactions vary widely. "We've seen everything from parents who are excited and proud, even kind of implying, 'My child has a better friend than your child,' to a fundamentalist Christian who brought a Bible to the lab and said she was praying every day for the devil to leave her child," Taylor says.

Pretend friends rarely are a sign of emotional problems, she says. If a child claims a friend is controlling her and making her do things she doesn't want to do, parents should seek psychological help, Taylor says. But if a child isn't depressed and has real-life friends too, pretend pals shouldn't cause concern.

In fact, parents should look for day care and preschool programs that allow time for imaginative play so children can interact with pretend figures, Willer says. "Even if parents discourage it, it's going to happen."

6-Year-Old Commits Suicide (N.Y. Times)

Published: June 17, 1993
A 6-year-old girl was killed today when she stepped in front of a train, telling two siblings and a cousin that she wanted "to become an angel and be with her mother." The girl was identified as Jackie Johnson; the authorities said her mother, Carla Johnson, had a terminal illness. Jackie's death was ruled a suicide.
(from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9F0CEFDB1631F934A25755C0A965958260)

Details about Jackie and youth suicides can be found in the book Lay My Burden Down viewable as a pdf file by clicking:


AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Suicide and Suicide Attempts in Adolescents

(excerpts from http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;105/4/871)

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents 15 to 19 years old.

The number of adolescent deaths from suicide in the United States has increased dramatically during the past few decades. In 1997, there were 4186 suicides among people 15 to 24 years old, 1802 suicides among those 15 to 19 years old, and 2384 among those 20 to 24 years old.1 In 1997, 13% of all deaths in the 15- through 24-year-old age group were attributable to suicide.1 The true number of deaths from suicide actually may be higher, because some of these deaths are recorded as "accidental."3

From 1950 to 1990, the suicide rate for adolescents in the 15- to 19-year-old group increased by 300%.4 Adolescent males 15 to 19 years old had a rate 6 times greater than the rate for females.1 The ratio of attempted suicides to completed suicides among adolescents is estimated to be 50:1 to 100:1, and the incidence of unsuccessful suicide attempts is higher among females than among males.5 Suicide affects young people from all races and socioeconomic groups, although some groups seem to have higher rates than others. Native American males have the highest suicide rate, African American women the lowest. A statewide survey of students in grades 7 through 12 found that 28.1% of bisexual and homosexual males and 20.5% of bisexual and homosexual females had reported attempting suicide.6 The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey of students in grades 9 through 12 indicated that nearly one fourth (24.1%) of students had seriously considered attempting suicide during the 12 months preceding the survey, 17.7% had made a specific plan, and 8.7% had made an attempt.7

Firearms, used in >67% of suicides, are the leading cause of death for males and females who commit suicide.8 More than 90% of suicide attempts involving a firearm are fatal because there is little chance for rescue. Firearms in the home, regardless of whether they are kept unloaded or stored locked up, are associated with a higher risk for adolescent suicide.9,10 Parents must be warned about the lethality of firearms in the home and be advised strongly to remove them from the premises.11 Ingestion of pills is the most common method among adolescents who attempt suicide.

Youth, who seem to be at much greater risk from media exposure than adults, may imitate suicidal behavior seen on television.12 Media coverage of a teenage suicide may lead to cluster suicides, additional deaths from suicides in youths within a 1- to 2-week period afterward.12-14


Although no specific tests are capable of identifying suicidal persons, specific risk factors exist.

Adolescents at higher risk commonly have a history of depression, a previous suicide attempt, a family history of psychiatric disorders (especially depression and suicidal behavior), family disruption, and certain chronic or debilitating physical disorders or psychiatric illness.15 Alcohol use and alcoholism indicate high risk for suicide.16 Alcohol use has been associated with 50% of suicides.17 Living out of the home (in a correctional facility or group home) and a history of physical or sexual abuse are additional factors more commonly found in adolescents who exhibit suicidal behavior.18 Psychosocial problems and stresses, such as conflicts with parents, breakup of a relationship, school difficulties or failure, legal difficulties, social isolation, and physical ailments (including hypochondriacal preoccupation), commonly are reported or observed in young people who attempt suicide. These precipitating factors often are cited by youths as reasons for attempting suicide. Gay and bisexual adolescents have been reported to exhibit high rates of depression and have been reported to have rates of suicidal ideation and attempts 3 times higher than other adolescents. Studies of twins show that monozygotic twins show significantly higher concordance for suicide than dizygotic twins.16 Long-term high levels of community violence may contribute to emotional and conduct problems and add to the risk of suicide for exposed youth.19 Adolescent and parent questionnaires that cover those risk factors listed above, may be useful in the office setting to assist in obtaining a complete history.20

Serious depression in adolescents may manifest in several ways. For some adolescents, symptoms may be similar to those in adults, with signs, such as depressed mood almost every day, crying spells or inability to cry, discouragement, irritability, a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness, negative expectations of self and the environment, low self-esteem, isolation, a feeling of helplessness, markedly diminished interest or pleasure in most activities, significant weight loss or weight gain, insomnia or hypersomnia, fatigue or loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and diminished ability to think or concentrate.21 However, it is more common for an adolescent with serious depression to exhibit psychosomatic symptoms or behavioral problems. Such a teenager may seek care for recurrent or persistent complaints, such as abdominal pain, chest pain, headache, lethargy, weight loss, dizziness and syncope, or other nonspecific symptoms.22 Behavioral problems that may be manifestations of masked depression include truancy, deterioration in academic performance, running away from home, defiance of authorities, self-destructive behavior, vandalism, alcohol and other drug abuse, sexual acting out, and delinquency.23 Episodic despondency leading to self-destructive acts can occur in any adolescent, including high achievers. These adolescents may believe that they have failed or disappointed their parents and family and perceive suicide as their only option. Other adolescents may believe that suicide is a better option than life as they experience it.

TABLE 1 Examples of Adolescents at Low, Moderate, and High Risk for Suicide

Low risk:

Took 5 ibuprofen tablets after argument with girlfriend

Impulsive; told mother 15 minutes after taking pills

No serious problems at home or school

Occasionally feels "down" but has no history of depression or serious emotional problems

Has a number of good friends

Wants help resolving problems and is no longer considering suicide after interview

Moderate risk:

Suicidal ideation precipitated by recurrent fighting with parents and failing grades in school

Wants to "get back" at parents

Cut both wrists while at home alone; called friend 30 minutes later

Parents separated, changed school this semester, history of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder

Symptoms of depression for the last 2 months, difficulty controlling temper

Binge drinking on the weekends

Answers all the questions during the interview, agrees to see a therapist if parents get counseling, will contact the interviewer if suicidal thoughts return

High risk:

Thrown out of house by parents for smoking marijuana at school, girlfriend broke up with him last night, best friend killed in auto crash last month

Wants to be dead; sees no purpose in living

Took father's gun; is going to shoot himself where "no one can find me"

Gets drunk every weekend and uses marijuana daily

Hates parents and school; has run away from home twice and has not gone to school for 6 weeks

Hospitalized in the past because he "lost it"

Does not want to answer many of the questions during the interview and hates "shrinks"

N.Y. Times Review

November 21, 2005
A 4-Year-Old Who Needs a Divorce

With imaginary friends like Mr. Marmalade, the creepy title character in a new play by Noah Haidle, what 4-year-old needs enemies? That more or less sums up the joke that's stretched to fill 90 minutes in this zany comedy about emotionally disturbed children (yes, you read that right), a Roundabout Theater Company production that opened last night at the Laura Pels Theater.

In "Mr. Marmalade," Mr. Haidle, a playwright new to Off Broadway, aims to unsettle and delight in equal measure. The play conjures in bright Crayola colors the precociously adult mindscape of little Lucy (played by the adult actress Mamie Gummer), a pigtailed New Jersey tot whose fantasy companion comes accessorized with personal assistant, bipolar disorder and cocaine problem. But "Mr. Marmalade," which stars Michael C. Hall of "Six Feet Under" fame as the sinister title character, never truly capitalizes on its provocative conceit. Mr. Haidle chooses instead to draw us a scary but ultimately hollow cartoon.

His thesis: a toxic combination of neglect and exposure to the noisy dysfunction in the cultural ether could so warp a tyke's psyche that she dreams up a pal who prefers sex toys to tea parties. Gasps of uncomfortable laughter arise from the audience as the bewildered Lucy negotiates the mood swings of her now-cuddly, now-abusive friend, aping the enabling instincts of her elders. Besieged by loneliness, she seeks his love even after benign neglect - a delayed brunch date - gives way to physical and emotional violence. In a world permeated with chatter about sex and commitment and issues of self-esteem, the play argues, no child is left behind for long.

But Lucy's interior world is so patently incredible as the creation of a 4-year-old mind, however marinated in the scream-fests of daytime television and episodes of "Law & Order: SVU," that the author never really even dips his toe into the painful emotional undercurrents beneath the play's antic comic surface. Instead, he settles too easily and too consistently for cheap laughs.
Lucy's lexicon is too sophisticated to suggest random imprinting from endless hours of television consumption, to begin with. (A recliner and a jumbo tube are tellingly parked dead center in Allen Moyer's set, which is ringed in loud wallpaper.) With her knowledge of interns and brunch and the menu at Nobu, Lucy's vocabulary is littered with such references planted to serve as punch lines. How to explain this urbanity, when her distracted single mom appears to work as a waitress in a diner? (Never mind the distasteful implication that neglectful mothering is endemic to the working classes.)

Lucy also displays a knack for quippery to match her smooth talk. The slatternly baby sitter, awaiting the arrival of her boyfriend, asks, "How do I look?" "Easy," squeaks Lucy, her timing flawless. Far from languishing in lonely obscurity, with only Mr. M, his assistant (David Costabile) and her one nonfictional friend, a suicidal 5-year-old named Larry (Pablo Schreiber), for company, this comic prodigy might easily have skipped preschool and jumped straight to a staff job on Fox's late, lamented "Arrested Development."

It is obviously true that young children can latch on to stray words and ideas seeping down from exchanges between careless adults. And there is, of course, a long history of literature that marries the anxieties of the adult world and the phantasms of childhood daydreams, going as far back as Lewis Carroll's plucky Alice. Likewise, playwrights like Christopher Durang, Craig Lucas and David Lindsay-Abaire have successfully spun tales of violent emotional warfare trimmed with wacky comic flourishes.

But Mr. Haidle has invited us down a rabbit hole that really leads nowhere. In between the tea parties and naughty games of doctor, Lucy carries on so many complex conversations about concepts (suicide, infidelity) blatantly beyond a 4-year-old's intellectual capacity that her nightmare world retains no grip on our imaginations or our emotions. It is too palpably shaped by the playwright, not by his character. (The snarky, portentous epigraphs for each scene do not help: "III. Concerning countless more hardships which Lucy endured with regard to her imaginary friends, if you can even call them that," runs one.)

The director, Michael Greif, and the actors bring a frenzied sense of fun to the play's lighter moments. It's hard to resist the sugar-shock food fight that Larry and Lucy embark on during a respite from their more sinister games, with Larry's somewhat more anodyne imaginary companions, a potty-mouthed cactus and sunflower, joining in. As Mr. Marmalade, Mr. Hall is flesh-crawlingly watchable as he twitches suddenly between roles as teddy bear in a business suit and abusive beast. In her Off Broadway debut, Ms. Gummer (a daughter of Meryl Streep) pouts and chirps childishly and effectively, even if she cannot mask the contradictions of her character.

But the gruesome excesses of Mr. Haidle's plot strike too many unearned sour notes. In exaggerating Lucy's self-inflicted emotional torture to spark spasms of nervous laughter, Mr. Haidle sacrifices the chance to explore his dark subject matter honestly. And you don't have to be a prig to wish that a playwright dealing with the idea of children's suffering would demonstrate an awareness that the subject is sadly not as far-fetched as the loopy tone would suggest.

Mr. Haidle does strive to end the play on a note of tentative hope. After Lucy has finally exorcised her demon, she is seen frolicking outdoors with Larry in a merry game of dodge ball, free at last from the terrors of her diseased imagination. But hold on, Mr. Haidle - dodge ball as a healing balm for toddler angst? In my experience, that infernal game was more likely to be the cause of trauma, not the cure for it. Heck, I've still got the emotional scars to prove it.
"Mr. Marmalade" continues at the Laura Pels Theater, Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theater, 111 West 46th Street, Manhattan, through Jan. 29, 2006; (212) 719-1300.