Friday High Five: Sniffer dogs for cancer, stunt memoirs and YA wars

Dogs enlisted in cure for cancer

Is there nothing man’s (and woman’s) best friend can’t do? Sniffer dogs have long been used by police, and in search and rescue operations. Now, tests are being done to see if dogs - who have 220 million olfactory cells in their snouts, compared with 50 million in a human nose - can help detect cancer. ‘The largest study ever done on cancer-sniffing dogs found they can detect prostate cancer by smelling urine samples with 98 percent accuracy.’

Teen’s guide to being popular a smash hit

Fifteen-year-old Maya Van Wagenen is the latest to write a bestselling stunt memoir (a phenomenon Jane Sullivan wrote about in last weekend’s Age), after she found a 1951 guide to being popular for young women and decided to follow it, recording her progress along the way. Her memoir, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek (written when she was 13), has sold in big numbers in the UK & US, with rights sold in 20 countries; DreamWorks has optioned the film rights. ‘Pearls are my signature,’ she says. ‘Whenever I follow any of the physical advice in Betty’s book, like the pearls or the red lipstick, it’s about going back to that mentality of “Here I am, I am the character of this story, and I will act accordingly”.’

Caitlin Moran, John Green, and the YA wars

Caitlin Moran has been in trouble lately for saying she wrote her YA novel in response to a lack of ‘sexy books’ for teenage girls. ‘It’s always about teenage boys going off and having amazing adventures. You don’t see teenage girls anywhere unless they’re being bitten by vampires so I wanted to write about a funny, weird teenage girl having adventures, particularly sex adventures.’ But while Twilight might make the deadlines, there are plenty of interesting and daring ‘sexy’ YA books for and about girls.

Other writers, including Danielle Binks at Killings, are frustrated with the recent tendency of commentators to write about John Green as if he invented realism in YA. ‘The New York Times falsely implied that Green invented ‘realistic stories told by a funny, self-aware teenage narrator’. It’s not Green’s fault that he’s a man, or that he’s the only YA author currently receiving this level of media adoration. However, the genre is filled with other talented and inspiring authors.’

Why is McDonalds sponsoring nutritionists' conferences?

In Mother Jones, there’s an eye-opening article about the extent to which fast food companies have co-opted the professionals who officially advise America on healthy eating. At the California Dietetic Association’s annual conference, McDonalds, the official sponsor, provided the only lunch, while Hershey’s passed out flavoured milk, the California Beef Council gave out pamphlets on how to lose weight by eating steak, and the Wheat Council hosted a presentation about how gluten intolerance was just a fad, not a real medical problem.

Jill Abramson on finding strength in failure

In the lead-up to our event celebrating failures that provide a foundation for resilience (and even triumph), Epic Fail, we keep seeing evidence everywhere that it’s a hot - and important - topic. The latest? Recently (and controversially) fired New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson has spoken out for the first time in a college commencement address. ‘I’m talking to anyone who has been dumped,’ she said. ‘Not gotten the job you really wanted or received those horrible rejection letters from grad school. You know, the sting of losing, or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of.’

Photo courtesy of *New York Times*

Photo courtesy of New York Times