(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Barbie

“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you”*…


The Macaulay Library is the world’s largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video recordings. Our mission is to collect and preserve recordings of each species’ behavior and natural history, to facilitate the ability of others to collect and preserve such recordings, and to actively promote the use of these recordings for diverse purposes spanning scientific research, education, conservation, and the arts.

Scientists worldwide use our audio and video recordings to better understand and preserve our planet. Teachers use our sounds and videos to illustrate the natural world and create exciting interactive learning opportunities. We help others depict nature accurately and bring the wonders of animal behavior to the widest possible audience. It is an invaluable resource at your fingertips.

This archive grows through the efforts of dedicated recordists who share their recordings with the community. We encourage recordists around the world to contribute their recordings and data to what has become an irreplaceable resource…

Browse the collection and learn more about its work at Cornell’s Macaulay Library.

And explore more “sounds that never die” at “The Eternal Auditorium.”

* Chief Dan George


As we peel our ears, we might spare a thought for John W. “Jack” Ryan; he died on this date in 1991.  A Yale-trained engineer, Ryan left Raytheon (where he worked on the Navy’s Sparrow III and Hawk guided missiles) to join Mattel.  He oversaw the conversion of the Mattel-licensed “Bild Lili” doll into Barbie (contributing, among other things, the joints that allowed “her” to bend at the waist and the knee) and created the Hot Wheels line.  But he is perhaps best remembered as the inventor of the pull-string, talking voice box that gave Chatty Cathy her voice.

Ryan with his wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor. She was his first only spouse; he, her sixth.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The test of civilization is its estimate of women”*…


The makers of Barbie seem to apologize A LOT for underestimating young women. This time the Internet’s buzzing over a pretty cringe-worthy Barbie book, “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” published out of Random House.

Barbie is featured in the book as a stylishly pink-clad computer engineer that somehow breaks everything and doesn’t know how to code. She does draw puppies though. This lady hacker needs the help of two dudes named Steve and Brian to do the real programming work cuz she’s just, “creating design ideas.” Ha ha ha…what?

In another section, a supposedly intelligent engineer Barbie (who should be familiar enough with technology not to do this) puts her flash drive into Skipper’s laptop and accidentally infects it with a virus. Skipper didn’t back up her homework and loses all her files and music, too. Silly Barbie. The two then get into a pillow fight. A pillow fight! Of course. Because women actually do that.

Don’t worry, Steve and Brian are here to save everything.

All the outrage over this book caught Mattel’s attention. It’s no longer available on Amazon.

A blogger who writes for Disney, Pamela Ribon first wrote about “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” after picking it up at a friend’s house and reading horrific page after page. The traffic from her blog was so intense that she republished the piece on Gizmodo last night. The social blew up and people took to the Twitters to let Mattel know what a lady hacker can accomplish…

Mattel has since apologized for this completely sexist garbage on it’s Facebook page, promising it won’t do it again:

The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girl’s imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.

This is not the first time in Barbie’s more than half a century history something like this has happened. I clearly remember when Barbie held an aversion to math. Mattel released a Teen Talk Barbie back in 1992. The chattery doll would say things like, “Math class is tough,” and “I love shopping” right after, implying young girls would be better off skipping homework not suited for them…

More misogyny at “Mattel Pulls Sexist Barbie Book “I Can Be A Computer Engineer” Off Amazon.”  Then, as a corrective, check out:”Barbie, Remixed: I (really!) can be a computer engineer.”


* George William Curtis


As we reaffirm our repugnance at Mattel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1654 that mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and philosopher.Blaise Pascal had a carriage accident that changed his life: his horses bolted and plunged off a bridge, throwing into the roadway. He had just experienced the trials of his father, who’d broken his hip (at a time when such an injury was desperately serious and often fatal): while Pascal was himself only bruised, he saw the episode as a warning directly from God. That night he experienced a Christian conversion– light flooded his room; he recognized Jesus,– and changed the course of his work, favoring Christian philosophy over the scientific work that had occupied him until then.  For the rest of his life Pascal carried around a piece of parchment sewn into his coat–a parchment inscribed with ecstatic phrases: “Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars…” and concluded by quoting Psalm 119:16: “I will not forget thy word. Amen.”

He went on to publish The Provincial Letters, and (posthumously) The Pensees.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 23, 2014 at 1:01 am

Leaning In?…

Barbie, who celebrated her 54th birthday last month, has had more than 130 careers.  Some, of course, command higher wages than others. But what is perhaps surprising is that the price of a doll varies by profession.  Most in the “Barbie I can be…” collection cost $13.99; but some, like “computer engineer” or “snowboarder” can cost two or three times more.  It can’t be the (cheap) accessories that come with each— why should a miniature plastic laptop be valued so much more highly than a chef’s tiny cupcakes?

The Economist‘s “Graphic Detail” explains…

Matthew Notowidigdo, an economist at the University of Chicago, calls it the “Barbie Paradox,” an idea popularised by his colleague Emily Oster in an article last year in Slate. They conclude that price discrimination is probably at work: sellers exploit parental hopes that a girl playing palaeontologist may grow up to be the real thing, so charge more. And the white-collar professions certainly assuage criticisms from the early 1990s when Mattel released talking Barbies that groused “Math class is tough” (which inspired The Economist to publish an in-depth analysis of the pint-sized princess in 2002). Interestingly, there is only a modest correlation between Barbie’s occupations and real-world salaries. Inexpensive pilot dolls are paid quite a lot in life, and despite babysitter Barbie’s moderately high price, she would take home a pittance as a childcare worker.


As we put away our childish things, we might send darkly humorous birthday greetings to Samuel Barclay Beckett; he was born on this date in 1906.  A novelist, poet, and theatrical director, Beckett is best remembered as the playwright who created (with Eugéne Ionesco) what Martin Esslin dubbed “The Theater of the Absurd.”  His Modernist masterpieces– Krapp’s Last Tape and Waiting for Godot, for instance had a profound influence on writers like Václav Havel, John Banville, Tom Stoppard, and Harold Pinter.  Beckett was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 13, 2013 at 1:01 am

Yet again, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is…

After winning a seat in the pantheon of so-called “super foods,” pomegranates got a burst of popularity, with consumers craving everything from fresh seeds to juices and teas. But its newfound fame also found it the victim of an age-old problem: food fraud. According to the non-profit organization U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) in Maryland, pomegranate juice was the most common case of food fraud in the past year, often watered down with grape or pear juice to cut costs.

The group operates the Food Fraud Database, which went live in April 2012 and recently added 800 new records. Other usual suspects from the scholarly articles, news accounts and other publicly available records include milk, honey, spices, tea and seafood.

Though senior director of food standards Markus Lipp says we enjoy a high level of food safety in the United States, he also warns, “The real risk of adulteration is that nobody knows what’s in the product.”

Consider, for example, olive oil…

Olive oil might have the distinction of being the oldest adulterated good. “Olive-oil fraud has been around for millenia,” according to the New Yorker. Cut with sunflower and hazelnut oils, olive oil was considered “the most adulterated agricultural in the European Union” by the late 1990s. Even after a special task force was formed, the problem remains. In his 2012 book, “Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil,” Tom Mueller writes about the ongoing fraud. Mueller tells the New Yorker, “In America, olive-oil adulteration, sometimes with cut-rate soybean and seed oils, is widespread, but olive oil is not tested for by the F.D.A.—F.D.A. officials tell me their resources are far too limited, and the list of responsibilities far too long, to police the olive-oil trade.”

Mora cautionary culinary notes at Smithsonian‘s “Don’t Get Duped: Six Foods That Might Not Be the Real Deal.”  Meantime, Happy Fat Tuesday!


As we decide to just grow it ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 2004 that Mattel announced that Barbie (“Barbara Millicent Roberts”) and Ken (“Ken Sean Carson”), who had been dating since Ken’s appearance in 1961, had broken up.  In 1993, “Earring Magic Ken” had been released; it became an instant cult collectible (the best-selling Ken in Mattel’s history)– and apparently, planted a doubt in Barbie’s mind as to the authenticity of her boyfriend’s attraction to her.


In explaining the split, Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, said that Barbie and Ken “feel it’s time to spend some quality time – apart…Like other celebrity couples, their Hollywood romance has come to an end”… though Arons indicated that the duo would “remain friends.”  He also hinted at what Earring Magic Ken collectors had suspected for some time: that the separation might be partially due to Ken’s reluctance to get married.

In February 2006, after Ken had a “makeover,” the couple committed to rekindling their relationship.  They are ostensibly still a couple, though Ken’s re-do may have taken a bit too well:  in 2009, Mattel introduced “Sugar Daddy Ken.”

The couple, in happier days


Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 12, 2013 at 1:01 am

By the Numbers…

Photographer and artist Chris Jordan has created a set of photographs, “Running the Numbers,” illustrating the dimensions of our consumer culture.  Working with assemblages, Jordan constructs images that deconstruct into his points…

For example, “Barbie Dolls” uses 32,000 of those plastic puppets to commemorate the 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries done in the U.S. in 2006:

See many more of these remarkable compositions, here (where a nifty feature lets one click for a seamless zoom on the details underlying each photo)– and see Jordan’s TED talk, “Picturing Excess,” here.

(TotH to Brain Pickings)

As we rethink those impulse purchases, we might recall that it was on this date in 1889 that Fusajiro Yamauchi  founded Nintendo Koppai (later, Nintendo Company, Ltd) to produce and market the playing cards known as Hanafuda (“flower cards”).

An early Nintendo game

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