The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on March 18, 2002 · Page 33
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 33

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Monday, March 18, 2002
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LV_E_1_E1_LA_1_03-18-02_mo_1_CMYK 2002:03:15:18:53:48 Living Living E MONDAY MARCH18,2002 WWW.LATIMES.COM/LIVING Southern California Southern California ‘If You Want to Write, ...Do It’ Author Julia Cunningham is enjoying a career renaissance. The 80-something writer’s recent collection of poetry is now a collector’s item and her latest children’s book is selling well amid positive reviews. E2 By CAROL J. WILLIAMS TIMES STAFF WRITER B ERLIN—In a mere 216 pages, German author Günter Grass has delivered a blockbuster novel, shed a reputation for resting on 40-year-old laurels, reconciled left and right factions long at odds over the Nazi past and exposed a World War II tragedy virtually buried for half acentury. Like most explorations of Germany’s 20th century history, “Im Krebsgang” (Crab- walking), is more a political evolution than a literary event. But even for its genre, the latest work by the Nobel laureate has provoked an unexpectedly passionate outpouring about the need for Germans to air their stories of suffering and victimization while staying mindful of the greater horrors they inflicted. The novel, which sold more than 300,000 copies in its first four weeks, tells the harrowing story of the January 1945 sinking of the Nazi cruise ship Wilhelm Gustloff. The vessel was packed with about 10,000 Germans, most women and children fleeing the Red Army as it committed rapes and murders on the eastern front in revenge for Nazi atrocities earlier in the war. But the ship also carried German army recruits and wounded soldiers. So it was judged a legitimate target and torpedoed by a Soviet submarine whose commander was under threat of court-martial and needed a dramatic score to save his stripes. As many as 9,000 Germans died in the icy Baltic Sea, half of them children, whose frozen corpses Grass describes as having capsized from the weight of their heads, leaving a carpet of bobbing life preservers from which only tiny legs protruded. The last voyage of the Gus- tloff, for which there was no accurate passenger list because of the desperate stampede to get on board, was the deadliest disaster in the history of sea travel. The toll was six times that of the Titanic. But it was neither the first nor the last evacuation vessel to be sunk with staggering loss of life in the chaotic closing months of the war as 15 million Germans living in Eastern Europe were driven out or fled westward to the shrunken German state. More than 2.5 million Germans died of exposure, hunger, exhaustion and injuries in- flicted as they trudged westward ahead of the Red Army. For months after the Third Reich’s fall in May 1945, surviving exiles—like Grass’ fictional ARMIN BROSCH Nobel laureate Günter Grass’ “Im Krebsgang” has sold 300,000 copies in its first month in stores and has won critical praise. W E , THE V ICTIMS T OO Günter Grass’ new novel looks at aside of history mostly ignored: German suffering during WWII. Gustloff Archiv The Wilhelm Gustloff during its days as a recreation vessel. In 1945, it was sunk by a Soviet sub; about 9,000 people died. ...has the day off. Al Martinez PleaseseeGrass, E3 Birds & Bees: Rekindling the Love and Intimacy In a new book, “Making Love Again: Hope for Couples Facing Loss of Sexual Intimacy,” a husband and wife recount their struggles with impotence and the damage it inflicted on their marriage— and how they survived it to recapture the passion. E2 Book Review: Atwood Writes About Her Craft Novelist and poet Margaret Atwood examines writers and writing in six essays contained in “Negotiating With the Dead,” based on lectures she gave at Cambridge. E3 Comics.......... E4-6 Bridge................ E5 Astrology........... E5 Ann Landers...... E5 Dear Abby......... E5 Kids’ Page.......... E7 INSIDE By MARTIN MILLER TIMES STAFF WRITER I t sounds like a classic California story: Adults concerned about self-esteem and unchecked competition legislate all the rough-and-tumble out of childhood. In this case, there is a movement afoot to ban dodge ball, a staple of the playground for generations. Dodge ball, it seems, is bad. There are liability concerns, critics say, and the game provides apoor cardiovascular workout. The real deal-breaker, though, is that the game can hurt children’s feelings, not to mention their teeth. But there’s a twist. This isn’t a California story at all. California has been out-Californiaed by the East Coast. What began as an outcry from a Connecticut educator resulted in recent years in a handful of school districts in New York, Virginia, Maryland, Maine, Ohio and Texas prohibiting the game on their campuses. School officials know of no California school district that has officially banned the game. Most local districts, like Los Angeles Unified School District, leave it up to individual schools whether they let kids make human targets out of their classmates. The man taking aim at dodge ball—a.k.a. murder ball, killer ball, bombardment—is Neil Williams, chairman of the physical education department at Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic. The professor, who has been called a “wuss” more than once over this debate, admits that as a youth he was an excellent dodge ball player. He loved the game, in which his arm strength and quickness often left their mark on his less agile classmates. It wasn’t until he became a physical education teacher years later that he underwent a radical conversion. His moment of epiphany came when he coaxed an over- Critics Aim to Bounce Dodge Ball Off the Schoolyard ANNIE WELLS / Los Angeles Times Some school districts have banned dodge ball, saying it can cause children physical and emotional pain. PleaseseeDodge Ball, E3 By JESSICA GARRISON TIMES STAFF WRITER J ohn Roberts loved getting emails from people in his distant past. That’s why he signed up for Classmates.com in the first place, to get in touch with long-lost buddies from high school. But this e-mail exchange was different. It started with an innocuous enough question: After high school graduation in Las Vegas, N.M., had Roberts spent time in Pueblo, Colo., in 1969? Yes, he typed. Why? Sit down, the next e-mail warned him. And on the next line: I think you are my father. High-school-reunion Web sites —which, for a small fee, enable users to get in touch with former classmates—have become much more than places to plan the 20th anniversary of your graduation. As people flock to sign up, the reunion sites have grown into giant databases on tens of millions of high school graduates in the United States, available to anyone with a modem. Classmates.com, the largest of such sites, has 28 million registered members. And Reunions.com, which recently bought up two large sites, High- schoolalumni.com and Planet- Alumni.com, has registered more than 7 million. Opportunities abound. Aprivate investigator tracks down a suspect—then follows a whim and finds the woman who will become his wife. Adopted children track down birth parents. A 63-year-old widower reconnects with his lost love. The sites’ magnitude and many uses worry privacy specialists, since people who post personal information often don’t realize they’re opening themselves up to something beyond a conversation with an old acquaintance. M ost of the sites were originally created to help alumni find scattered classmates and act as an information clearinghouse for reunions. Generally, it’s free to join and to give the sites information to post about yourself so that old classmates can find you. You also can view information about other classmates, which often includes such tidbits as how many kids they have or what they do for a living. If you want to make contact via e-mail, the sites will forward your message (they don’t give out e-mail addresses) if you pay an annual fee—$36 in Classmates.com’s case, $14.95 at Reunions.com. And some users have realized that that may be a small price to pay for a new way to search the past. Private eyes sometimes turn to the reunion services when traditional methods fail, said Anne Fields, vice president of investigative services for the California Assn. of Licensed Investigators, though she thinks it’s one of the less effective tools. In one case, she said, an investigator needed to locate a woman with a common name who had been a witness in a case going to trial. The investigator went on a reunion site and began e-mailing people with the woman’s name. The witness replied. It’s easy for people to be misled by such e-mails. For one thing, they’re posted as coming from the reunion site. As a result, the recipients generally assume the sender is anot-very-memorable classmate, and they might give out information they would never give a bank or government agency. Mark Nunez, a fraud investigator for an insurance industry firm, signed up for several sites for those very reasons. “You get a lot of good leads,” he said. “Knowing where someone came from is always a good start.” During one of his forays onto the sites, for example, he was able to reach a relative of someone he was searching for, and from there, tracked the man down. Yet even Nunez, the hard-boiled investigator, was unable to resist the siren song of high school romance. While he was on Classmates- .com last year, a whim led the gumshoe away from his cases and to the high school he attended in Ful- lertonin the late ’70s. One name jumped out at him. Online Class Reunions: Lost Loves Are Found, Gumshoes Stick Around KEVIN P. CASEY / Los Angeles Times Mark Nunez located Robin Matthews, who attended his Fullerton high school, through a reunion Web site last year. They’re now engaged. PleaseseeReunion, E4

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