Posts tagged “character”

ChittahChattah Quickies

Children With Autism, Connecting via Transit [New York Times] – Fascinating to learn first that the structure of trains appeals to kids with autism and even more fascinating to see that museums are adapting their programming to address this population specifically, a new mission that presumably reaches far beyond their original charters.

Like many children with autism spectrum disorders, Ravi is fascinated by trains and buses, entranced by their motion and predictability. And for years, these children crowded the exhibitions of the modest New York Transit Museum, chattering about schedules and engine components and old subway maps. Now, the museum, and others like it, are moving beyond accommodating the enthusiasm for trains and buses among children with autism and trying to use it to teach them how to connect with other people – and the world. The museum created a “Subway Sleuths” after-school program for 9- and 10-year-olds with autism that focuses on the history of New York City trains but seeks to make the children more at ease socially.

Intel uses sci-fi to understand possible tech uses [San Francisco Chronicle] – Compelling notion (see an interactions article I wrote about a similar topic) but the article is so slight that I have to wonder how exactly they are using these tools to drive a different approach to design or to impact specific products.

The chipmaker is trying to speed along the [cultural] change by reaching engineers in a language they understand: science fiction. Last year Intel hired four sci-fi writers to study the company’s latest research projects and produce an anthology, “The Tomorrow Project,” envisioning how cutting-edge processors might be used in the near future. The is to help Intel’s engineers design chips tailored to specific consumer uses with wide market potential. Intel’s sci-fi publishing arm is an extension of its 12-year-old social science division. The division assesses technological trends by sending anthropologists and sociologists to hang out in living rooms, senior care centers and hospitals. The logic behind the effort: Understand how technology is used, and you’re more likely to design chips people will buy.

Nat Allbright, Voice of Dodgers Games He Did Not See, Dies at 87 [New York Times] – I’m impressed with the notion of a broadcaster stitching together a continuous narrative based on tiny fragments of information. While mainstream broadcasting has obviously changed radically since then, there are echoes today in Twitter and #hashtags in breaking-news situations.

he took bare-bones telegraph messages transmitted by Morse code (“B1W” for Ball One Wide); embellished them with imagination and sound effects; and then broadcast games that sounded as if he were in the ballpark hearing, smelling and seeing everything, from steaming hot dogs to barking umpires to swirling dust at second base. Over a decade, Mr. Allbright broadcast 1,500 Brooklyn Dodgers games without seeing a single one. When so-called progress killed this splendid occupation, he came up with a new business: taping vanity broadcasts of imaginary sporting events, where the customer became the star. Just insert a name.

Sesame Street pair Bert and Ernie ‘will not marry’ [BBC] – A long-running joke about the mysterious relationship between the two Muppets turned serious recently when it was co-opted by social activist types who wanted to see gay marriage reflected in the show’s narrative. Groups representing blacks and gays have frequently and appropriately called attention to their lack of visibility in mainstream media, but this particular effort attempts to take control over the story direction in order to serve their particular agenda. Let’s not conflate the intent and the method. The producers of the show, after decades of ignoring the “are they are aren’t they” chatter, respond and explicitly acknowledge the reality of Bert and Ernie as characters, only.

Sesame Workshop, which produces “Sesame Street,” put an end to any wedding planning on Thursday with this brief statement posted on its Facebook page: “Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] book lovers never go to bed alone – [A Tumblr blog consisting only of photos of bookshelves, from homes and bookstores. Why? Because they can.]
  • [from steve_portigal] Ideal Bookshelf – [More examples of books as a identity system] This is an ongoing project called "Ideal Bookshelf". I paint sets of books as a form of portraiture: a person's favorites (of all time, within a genre or from a particular period in their lives); the ones that helped make them who they are today. We show off our books on shelves like merit badges (the ones not on our Kindle, at least), because we're proud of the ideas we've ingested to make us who we are, as we should be. The spine of a book is a sort of code for the giant cloud of ideas the author included within it. Just ten of them together on a sheet of paper tells the story of the mind that picked them in a way that is easily digestible but allows for endless study. We also display our books hoping to connect with others. When I paint someone else's bookshelf and they have the same book I do, it instantly makes me happy.
  • [from steve_portigal] Mr. Peanut’s New Look? Planters Went Old School [] – Mr. Peanut is getting a voice as part of efforts to revitalize the character and brand for contemporary consumers. [Also] a new look, meant to give him a more authentic appearance by evoking designs of the character from the 30s & 40s. He is now brown, rather than yellow, and sports a gray flannel suit…Nostalgia is not what it used to be, particularly when it comes to younger consumers, so the goal is to be perceived not as old-fashioned but rather as old-school ­ from an earlier era and worthy of respect…Mr. Levine hastened to reassure fans that “he’s still Mr. Peanut, with the top hat and monocle and cane….We’re taking him back to his roots.” In addition to getting a voice, Mr. Peanut has a new sidekick. Mr. Peanut’s buddy is named Benson, shorter than Mr. Peanut ­ one nut in his shell rather than two. “Benson is quite enamored of Mr. Peanut,” Mr. Levine said, but they are, as the saying goes, just friends. Benson does not live in Mr. Peanut’s house, Mr. Wixom said.
  • [from steve_portigal] White poppies banned from P.E.I. market [CBC News] – [Disruption – whether innovative or not – starts with ideas. The poppy itself is not harmful or otherwise objectionable, but the idea it – arbitrarily, mind you – represents is transgressive enough that the establishment reacts as only the establishment can – by banning the representation of that idea. I assume, for further irony, that these are plastic poppies, not "real" poppies. The power of symbols!] The Charlottetown Farmers Market turned away people selling white poppies on Sunday for Remembrance Day. Volunteers with the Island Peace Committee had arranged to hand out the controversial poppies at the farmers market for the second consecutive week. Committee members say the alternative poppies stand for peace and are also to remember civilians who die in war. The white poppies have drawn an angry response from the Royal Canadian Legion, saying they detract from the original red poppy…For now, people will have to contact the Island Peace Committee directly to get a white poppy.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] A big admission ahead of bigger mission for Batman [AP] – [While the reporting here is primarily about Bruce Wayne revealing his secret identity as Batman, more interesting is the fictional franchising/crowdsourcing approach. The creators of the Batman product are talking about the brand within the story of Batman, but in fact by incorporating real-life businesses themes, they are refreshing the actual Batman brand within our world. Layered!] The part of a detailed effort that puts into motion a plan for Batman Incorporated, a global network of Batmen from China to Argentina to fight crime worldwide…In doing so, Wayne is free to take his crime fighting international by building what Morrison calls a "global, international army of Batmen. Batman in China, Batman in Japan, Batman in Russia. Expanding the Batman brand to areas where he really hasn't been before."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • ‘Law & Order’ canceled by NBC after 20 seasons: The culprit behind NY show’s demise? Low ratings [NY Daily News] – "Law & Order" is going the way of egg creams. After two decades and 451 shows, NBC pulled the plug on the New York-based series to make room for new shows. The series will end May 24. Once a top-10 show, "Law & Order" had struggled in recent years – along with the rest of NBC's prime-time lineup. This season the show is No. 56 overall.
  • ‘Little Orphan Annie’ comic strip skips off into the sunset [Washington Post] – Daddy Warbucks's favorite pupil-less redhead had enough Depression-tested pluck to survive 86 years in daily newspapers, but now the orphan's outta luck. Come June 13, her clear-eyed comic strip will end as her syndicate, Tribune Media Services, sends her off into the sunset. Canceled. "Believe me, this wasn't a decision we took lightly," said Steve Tippie, TMS's vice president of licensing. "But we also felt that 'Annie,' unlike many strips, has such wide, almost iconic presence in our culture that it would serve the character and our business best if we focused on other channels more appropriate to the 'kids' nature of the property." The strip's current artist, Ted Slampyak, said: "It's almost like mourning the loss of a friend."
  • In Search of Adorable, as Hello Kitty Starts to Fade [] – Hello Kitty has been licensed to products like dolls, clothes, lunch boxes, stationery, kitchenware, a Macy’s parade balloon and even an Airbus. But amid signs that Hello Kitty’s pop-culture appeal is waning, especially at home, where sales have shrunk for a decade, the company has struggled to find its next-generation version of adorable. Recent flops include Spottie Dottie, a pink-frocked Dalmatian, and Pandapple, a baby panda. Even the moderately successful My Melody (a rabbit) and TuxedoSam (penguin) show no signs of achieving global Kitty-ness. “We badly need something else,” said Yuko Yamaguchi, Sanrio’s top Hello Kitty designer for most of its 36 years. “Characters take a long time to develop and introduce to different markets,” Ms. Yamaguchi said. “But Kitty has been so popular it’s overshadowed all our other efforts.” …In a ranking of Japan’s most popular characters, compiled Character Databank, Hello Kitty lost her spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002.

ChittahChattah Quickies

Old Navy customers are glamour-seeking automatons?

Old Navy is using “modelquins” (?) in their advertising, including a circular evoking US Weekly, called ON Weekly.

These little people are kinda creepy. Old Navy has put out a body of ironic advertising poking at glamor and celebrity culture, and here you’ve got these representative ordinary customers who are on the red carpet and subject to gossipy rumors, so at one level the message may be that Old Navy offers a step into the silly trashy world that we enjoy consuming and perhaps aspiring too. You too can be a celeb, but not a high-maintenance one. At the same time, in order to be that celebrity and be press-worthy, you’re going to have to give up your individuality and human character and become, well, plastic.

The campaign features people of all ages, but somehow the emphasis on tweens and teens in the ON Weekly seems just a bit inappropriate.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Vermont's first IHOP gets permission to go beyond standard franchise menu and offer Vermont maple syrup – “You can’t open up a Vermont pancake shop without Vermont maple syrup,” said Sam Handy Jr., who is the restaurant’s general manager and whose family owns the franchis
  • Symbols of pot-subculture on the threshold of the mainstream – The significance of April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s in which a group of Northern California teenagers smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 p.m. Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. For fans of the drug, perhaps the biggest indicator of changing attitudes is how widespread the observance of April 20 has become, including its use in marketing campaigns for stoner-movie openings (like last year’s “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay”) and as a peg for marijuana-related television programming (like the G4 network’s prime-time double bill Monday of “Super High Me” and “Half Baked”). Events tied to April 20 have “reached the tipping point in the last few years after being a completely underground phenomenon for a long time,” said Steven Hager, the creative director and former editor of High Times. “And I think that’s symptomatic of the fact that people’s perception of marijuana is reaching a tipping point.”
  • Chinese government database doesn't recognize all the language's characters, creating 60 million edge cases – New Chinese government computers are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters. At least 60 million Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new ID cards — unless they change their names to something more common. Since 2003 China has been working on a standardized list of characters for people to use in everyday life, including when naming children. A government linguistics said the list would include more than 8,000 characters. Although that is far fewer than the database now supposedly includes, the official said it was more than enough “to convey any concept in any field.” About 3,500 characters are in everyday use.

Please do not pummel the Aristocats

From today’s Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I am a professional costume wearer. By that, I mean I have been an elf, a giraffe, a moose, T-Rex and a character for a major hamburger chain. I am presently a character for a major cereal company. Once I am in costume, I am not allowed to speak.

Adults and older children think nothing of hitting me, kicking me, pulling at parts of my costume, and trying to knock me down. One 12-year-old even tried to “head butt” me while his father looked on and encouraged him!

I am in costume for about an hour or so before I can take breaks. It gets hot and sweaty inside these costumes. I have a limited field of vision and can’t see many of the oncoming attacks. Even if I saw each one, I would not be able to say anything to stop or deflect these random attacks. What I do is have a paid “helper” walk beside me. This is now discouraging such actions by adults and children.

I would ask parents to please remember that there are real people inside these costumes, which are not heavily padded. I feel each and every hit and kick as if I were wearing street clothes. Thanks for printing this. — H.S. IN COLORADO

DEAR H.S.: You have my sympathy, and I am seconding your request. That a parent would encourage such poor behavior incenses me. You should not have had to hire a “bodyguard” to protect you.

I find it interesting, however, that the children who are acting out against you do not regard you as another human being. It seems they have mistaken you for the same kind of cartoon character they see on television — probably too much television — against whom violence is committed with no repercussions. (I’m reminded of the “Mr. Bill” character that was once featured on “Saturday Night Live.”)

One of my assistants, who has occasionally dressed as a chimp in her work as a docent at the L.A. Zoo [Ahem?! I’d suggest that if you’re wearing a chimp costume, you can’t really call yourself a docent! – SP], tells me that this is one of the hazards in your line of work. Call me humorless, but to me, assault and battery are criminal behaviors — and if someone I cared about were subjected to it, I would be very concerned.


Help Lucky See The Future!

Yeah, dude. Keep eating sugar cereal like this and you’re going to have a serious diabetes problem. You already look like you’re suffering from ADD. You (or your guardian) might want to have a doctor check that out.


In the Hong Kong Art Museum store, we found a bunch of cute products with this funny character Matchman. I was trying to figure out which trinket to buy and bring back as an odd cultural souvenir until I stumbled across some pencil cases or stationery with what seemed to be serious religious overtones. I looked further and realize that it was a sneaky Jesus-pushing character, designed to appeal to “the kids” (and naive foreigners, I guess). I hate seeing that stuff sneaking past us, doesn’t speak well to the mission, if it’s about tricking you!

Shades of Veggie Tales!


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