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We have a new expression. When someone acts weird, we say knowingly, "He's on the faculty." The phrase was inspired by the teachers-go-alien movie "The Faculty," which we thought was a gas. The movie is rated R, so your folks might not let you see it, but tell 'em this: The film contains no sex; some rough language; one scene in which someone is supposed to be naked but is wearing a lame-looking bodysuit, and fabulous, mildly gory special effects.

Black people struggled for years to break the shackles of slavery. But if a Chicago businesswoman has her way, people will choose to wear shackles again -- this time to make fashion and cultural statements.

We're talking about copper shackles that cost $45, fit the wrist or neck and come with a dangling medallion that says "NEVER FORGET." They are the creation of Marchel'le Barber, 35, owner of Martha's Crib, a store that carries African-American collectibles.

Barber, an African-American, is used to shocking people. Martha's Crib also carries replicas of Jim Crow signs (once used to mark "colored" water fountains and bathrooms). She spent months combing antique shops and sales for genuine shackles. When she discovered how hard they were to find, she decided to make her own. Her first shackles came out in October. She also sells heavy steel leg shackles (not meant to be worn) for $90.

Reactions? Charles Branham, education director for the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago: "It's important to me that people not forget the period of enslavement. But I am certain that there are better and more appropriate ways of memorializing the tragedy."

Look for your nearest NBA team to bend over backward trying to win you back. Remember how peeved fans were after the baseball strike? Same thing here -- plenty of folks are disgusted enough to stay away. For one thing, starting next season, every team will sell 500 tickets a game for $10 each. Also, before the season starts, each team will two play exhibition games -- and fans can get in for free.

Ice skater Oksana Baiul said on the "Today" show that she has been clean for nine months. The Olympic gold medalist had been in rehab last year for alcohol abuse but is back training with a new coach, Natalia Linichuk, and is on tour.

"I've been planted here to be a vessel for acting, you know what I mean?"

-- Leonardo DiCaprio in the book "Stupid Celebrities: Over 500 of the Most Idiotic Things Ever Said by Famous People" by Kathryn Petras.

"I think next I'll wear household items. On the cover of 'Mutations' I'm wearing a dry-cleaning bag, so I'm looking through drawers and cabinets and that kind of thing. Light bulbs, I think, might provide an interesting direction in clothing. There'll be a lot of possibilities in '99."

-- Beck, on the visuals for his next album.

-- Knight Ridder

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