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Half Moon Rising 

A nipple sighting might take your mind off the faltering economy.

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Nipplemania is sweeping the nation. Hardly a day goes by without another nipple sighting. Not just your ordinary nipple sighting, but a nipple attached to the breast of a celebrity of the female variety.

A couple of weeks ago, the nipple in question belonged to Beyonce, whose “nipple slip” occurred during a dance number with Hugh Jackman at the Oscars show. No one saw the nipple (technically not the nipple itself, but a half-moon of areola surrounding the nipple) at the time, so fleeting and minimal was the exposure, which was caused by gown slippage as Mr. Jackman dipped Beyonce floorward in the course of their pas de deux.

The sighting of Miss Beyonce’s nipple was made possible by the latest technology, now available on even the cheapest of digital cameras, which emits an audible signal indicating that a nipple, or any portion of a nipple, has manifested itself somewhere in the reticulated pattern of pixels. In addition to the audible signal, similar in nature to the hyperaroused beep of a reversing trash-collection vehicle, the captured image appears with a yellow (sometimes orange or red) modesty star masking the naked nipple and/or areola until such time as the viewer wishes to activate the software that removes the modesty star, thus allowing the viewer to enjoy the naked nipple and/or areola in the shape, manner and form specially created by God.

Before Beyonce’s nipple was front-page news, of course, there was the wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson, producing the sight of Ms. Jackson’s formidable nipple pierced and gripped by a fiercelooking metallic sunray ornament. This nipple event at the 2004 Super Bowl took the nation’s mind off the ongoing disaster of President Booby’s war in Iraq. Now that we are reeling from the economic catastrophe created by the same Booby-in-Chief, a desperate citizenry has turned to nipple events to distract itself.

There was a time when religion was the opiate of the people; now nipple sightings dull our existential pain. Celebrity titillations are all over the Internet, with Websites providing nipple glimpses of everyone from Paris Hilton to Nancy Pelosi. And mainstream media of every variety regularly provide updates on the latest celebrity nipples.

(Or lack thereof: Angelina Jolie famously castigated studio publicists for airbrushing her proud nipples out of posters for Laura Croft, Tomb Raider.) Just last week on AOL, viewers could click on images of the always reliable Pamela Anderson and find themselves treated to her latest nipple slip, or to be technically accurate, a full-fledged nipple flip in the face. Some ungrateful viewers made some rather unkind online comments with regard to the morphology of Ms. Anderson’s areola, the shape of which, in all honesty, did bear an uncanny resemblance to the state of Idaho.

It should be mentioned that the unappreciative boobs who are overly critical of Ms. Anderson’s areola (can’t they admit that her actual nipple seems perfectly functional?) represent a tiny minority of the nipple-sighting population. In fact the nipple-slip phenomenon has spawned a whole new industry. Researchers around the country are studying nipples with a fervor unmatched since the court of Louis XIV, when French scientists developed hypoallergenic rouges for the nipples of such celebrity courtesans as Emily du Chatolet.

Parameters have been established with regard to nipple size, color, shape, protrusion and inversion. Even the mysterious areolar bumps known as Montgomery glands have been significantly quantified.

Most notably, nipple mathematicians have come up with a formula, known as the Huffnagel-Shlurp Equation, to measure the nipple/areola ratio.

Professionals and amateurs alike have applauded the originators of the equation, which, they say, has settled several disputes about the morphology of sighted nipples.

A more useful formula is perhaps the Nipple Index or NI, which measures not just the number, N, and frequency, F, of celebrity nipple sightings, but also factors in the amount, A, of nipple area exposed, as well as the length of time of exposure, or duration, D. The formula (NI equals N x F divided by square root of A x D) will provide economists with a meaningful indicator as to when the economy is looking up.

In the meantime, nipple-watchers across America (the rest of the world doesn’t share our obsession with mammary glands) will continue to tote up savory nipple-slips and argue about areolar morphology. As the world economy crashes and our planet burns up, our infantile citizens feast on nipple-slips like desperate babies glomming on to the rosy maternal teat.

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