Listen up, kids. If you see Sally Struthers running around the local food court, knock the chocolate danish out of her mouth and tell her to get back to work. Somebody needs her.

His name? James N. Ehrlich. And no, he’s not a poor, kid starving in Ethiopia — we would never dream of making fun of such people. Jim’s a Masters student at the University of California, Irvine. He’s also a surfer. A pretty smart one, apparently, as he got into the postgraduate program by combining his two loves: sociology and surfing.

“I chose to write this paper for various reasons,” Ehrlich explains. “One of the reasons being that I realized that doing a senior thesis project would definitely cut into my time in the water, and so in this way, I could still get out into the lineup in the name of ‘participant observation’ and additional research.”

The idea paid off. Not only did Ehrlich get into UCI, he was recently invited to present his work — “The Search: Issues of Play, Identification, Agency, and Deviance in the Absence of Mainstream {{{Sports}}}: Towards a {{{Discovery}}} of the Social Meaning of the Sport of Surfing” — at The Hawaii International Conference of the Social Sciences. The problem is, due to a bureaucratic Catch-22 between departments, the UCI powers will only give him a measly ${{{240}}} bucks to get him there. Hell, costs almost two bills in paper just to print the f—-in’ title, much less the airfare, $500 entry-fee, lodging, board charges, a few lap dances at Femme Nu . . . you get the picture.

Which is where you, or one of your rich relatives, come in. Jim’s asking for help in paying his expenses. And being suckers for all things educational, we agreed to get the word out. But we would never ask our devoted readership to donate a penny without knowing what they’re getting in return. So, every month, we send you a picture of Jim, a progress report and his grades. Just kidding. Instead we’ve decided to let Jim explain his paper himself:

“The paper studies the value orientations of surfers versus the value orientations of athletes that participate in mainstream, rule-driven sports that emphasize competitive achievement rather than personal achievement as is more typical of eco-sports. Generally, I wanted to know how the lessons learned in the water spill over into the terrestrial lives surfers lead and to what degree? What is the effect? Does it change priorities, values, ambition, motivation? Are all surfers really bums? Do surfers place as much stock in the institutions of society (family, religion, law, government, academia, career) as do others in mainstream sports? How do surfers see competition and commercialism within surfing? Does the competitive format enhance or take away from the essence and legitimacy of surfing? Does competition matter?”

Pretty heavy shit, huh? Well, if you’re intrigued, you can keep clicking through pages and get another 12,500 words. Or, you can stop the pain right now, click on Jim’s email, and find out where to send the check. And quick. He’s only got until the end of March. If not, don’t lose any sleep, Jim’s got a back-up plan:

“I have a five-year-old daughter, so I’m used to charging my credit card.”

Ouch. We know it’s a low blow. But what’s a charity plea without the guilt trip? Matt Walker

Editor’s note: because of technology limits within our website’s content management system, any errors or stylistic oversights in Mr. Ehrlich’s paper should be considered the faults of, its editors and quite possibly Bill Gates for lack of a better scapegoat.