Childhood Lost: Doctor Treats Youth Obesity

Physician Patricia Riba, who specializes in child nutrition and obesity in underserved communities, treats patients in Santa Ana, Calif., a city where 34 percent of young people are overweight, park space is lacking and nutritional food options are scarce.

At her clinic, Riba works with a team of bilingual assistants, a trainer, nutrition educators and social workers to help families change their eating habits and help overweight kids establish healthier lifestyles. Below, Riba offers a hands-on perspective on the cost of youth obesity and the resources and will required to address it.

Q: Generally speaking, what are you seeing in the exam rooms of your obesity clinic?

A: It’s a frightening thing to look at these kids, knowing there are problems with diabetes along with complications from sleep apnea, liver disease, heart disease. Their asthma is worse if they have obesity. Their future is grim and that’s why I do what I do and it’s what gets me out of bed every day….

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Disney Girls Gone Wild

Pocahontas is pissed

What are princesses made of? Bloody ripped clothes, ragged hair and demented grins, at least according to Disney designer and illustrator Jeffrey Thomas, who has developed a series of images and stories that make up the series, “Twisted Disney Princesses.”

Q: What exactly are the twisted princesses?

A: The Twisted Princesses are a series of drawings based on what would happen if a small detail in one of Disney’s classic stories was changed, preventing the lead female character (princess) from having her “Happily Ever After.” In life, everything doesn’t always have a happy ending and I thought it would be fun to put that twist on these classic characters.

Q: When did you create them?

A: I created the Twisted Princesses in the fall of 2008. They’ve been an ongoing project since then. I go back to them whenever I have some free time.

Q: What inspired these, and what is the appeal of depraved princesses?

Belle having a bad day

A: The creation of my Twisted Princesses is actually pretty funny. I worked at Disney Interactive Studios on the Brand/Legal certification team and my boss was actually showing me a bunch of Disney fan art that she had accumulated. It made me think “I love Disney. Why don’t I draw some of their characters?” So that night I actually went home, and decided I’d try to draw my own version of Belle. I sketched many versions of her but I didn’t like a single one. By this point I was tired and annoyed that I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so out of frustration I drew a disfigured Belle. I liked it so I took it to work the next day to show my boss. Her reaction to it inspired me to do another, which happened to be my Ariel. Everyone at work loved it, and that motivated me to tackle more princesses. For my first 6 princesses I had an idea of how they became the way they are but for the most part it was based off a “this would look cool” mentality. I never fully wrote out an original story until I drew Pocahontas. She was the first princess I wrote a story for because I thought she would need explanation as to why I gave her armor. And ever since Pocahontas, each of my princesses has been accompanied with an original story…

Q: You also wrote the stories?

A: I wrote the background stories for each of the princesses. I had a wealth of knowledge of the Disney properties (which is why I was hired to be part of the DIS Brand/legal team) which allowed me to create believable spin off stories for each princess. I wouldn’t go through with drawing a princess if her story didn’t make sense or feel like it could actually happen. Granted, they were much darker than the originals but I always thought it was ironic given my job at the time.

Q: Were you surprised by fan response?

A: I was curious though as to why so many people liked my princesses… I think what got people to notice them was the story that each picture told. Anybody can draw Ariel as an evil sea creature, but it doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t capture the feel of the character. I think that the appeal of my princesses is that fact that it takes these lovable characters and exposes them to a darker world but at the same time, they still retain the traits that make them who they are. One of my favorite Twisted Princess stories is Jane’s. She’s not a monster or zombie or vampire…she’s a survivor. And that speaks true to her character in the movie. I liked the idea that changing a simple story element (Tarzan doesn’t catch her) can cause a completely different character outcome and I think most people do too.

Q: How will you use the stories and images?

The girlfriend from hell, literally

A: I’m not really sure yet. It would be nice to publish a book about each princess someday, but that would be tough to get approved by Disney.

Q: Doesn’t Disney mind you ‘warping’ their characters, especially since you work for them?

A: Disney doesn’t mind. My princesses are considered a parody or fan art so it doesn’t pose a problem. If I was trying to make money off of them, they would have a problem

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Mad Women: Wives and Daughters of The Greatest Generation

Author and historian Stephanie Coontz loves to reexamine conventional truths and poke holes in them, as she did in her book chronicling the evolution of matrimony over the centuries, Marriage, A HistoryHer current book probes the myths and reality of The Feminine Mystique, a groundbreaking work from 1963 that argued vigorously for gender equality and is widely considered among the most influential books of the 20th century.

 Nearly 50 years after The Feminine Mystique was published, Friedan remains a controversial figure, and Coontz’s new book, A Strange Stirring, promises to add more complexity to our understanding of her and her readers. Coontz’s book revisits the “Mad Men” era in which Friedan lived and wrote, drawing on a study of nearly 200 original readers of The Feminine Mystique whose lives were upended by it.

 Below, Stephanie Coontz discusses Friedan’s most famous work. Minimal edits were made to our telephone interview

Q: In your research on Friedan, what myths did you encounter and in some cases debunk?

A: There’s the obvious anti-feminist myth, that she was man hater and told people to pursue careers and was a radical feminist. She was never anti-male; in fact Betty Friedan loved men. Then there are the other myths to which she contributed herself. She presented herself as just another suburban housewife, a victim of the mystique, but she actually had a very political and left-wing history. She was an activist in college, and worked for a left-wing newspaper; she was never “just a homemaker.” [Coontz cited historian Daniel Horowitz’s work on the topic of Friedan’s biography.] In the context of McCarthyism, I could understand why she wanted to play down her left-wing history and play up the things she had in common with housewives…….

She also said her publisher never believed in this book, and her biographers have accepted the myth that she had to browbeat him into hiring a publicist. This is not true. The publisher was very high on the book… he postponed it so excerpts could appear in Ladies Home Journal and McCall’s, which was unprecedented for two competing magazines. He solicited endorsements.

Q: So why did she misrepresent herself, in some cases?

A: She wanted to portray herself as a lonely battler, playing up what she did against all odds and playing down the support that she had. She seemed driven to present herself as more original than she was. For example, she never fully credited her big debts to Simone de Beauvoir and others. I responded viscerally because I do a lot of what she did, going to researchers who spend their entire lives on something that I reduce to a paragraph, so it’s my duty to give them credit in that paragraph. That turned me off to Friedan. But I turned a corner and learned to admire what she did. I came to understand it as her own insecurity. She was ambitious in a way that women were not supposed to be ambitious, passionate in a way… afraid if she didn’t burnish her credentials she wouldn’t be taken seriously by intellectuals and reviewers. And I really came to admire the skill she showed in making important research and big ideas accessible to ordinary readers.

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