Rigging a skeleton from "Blender for Dummies"

Hello. I’m a newbie at blender, and I’ve been at this for days. I’m trying to rig a skeleton (armatures) from Blender for Dummies (pp. 259 - 265, at least).
First of all, I’m wondering what that stuff is around the bones is. I looked at the example on a CD, and I can’t quite figure it out. It’s not an envelope, and I know it’s not a mesh or a meta shape. The instructions make it sound like I should already have the mesh all laid out, but the author doesn’t say how to do it.
Secondly, I’m having trouble parenting the top and the bottom so that the body doesn’t tear. When I go through the steps on p. 263, Basically all I seemed to do was add another bone: the body still tears.
Please help. :frowning: Thanks in advance.