April 17, 2002


Hello, Dolly

By Roy Rivenburg
Bride of Chucky II?: Dolls are scary things. In recent decades, they’ve been programmed to talk, walk, cry, eat, write, wet their diapers, roller-skate, do somersaults, grow hair, perform open-heart surgery, rope cattle and even commit murder. OK, maybe we lied about the heart surgery and cattle, but not necessarily about the murder. Remember Talky Tina, the doll that killed Telly Savalas in an episode of ‘‘The Twilight Zone’’? She’s no longer the stuff of fiction.

Introducing Cindy Smart, the world’s first doll with a sense of sight. Arriving in stores this fall from Manley Toy Quest, the $99 doll contains a ‘‘digital image processing system’’ that enables it to ‘‘see and recognize objects, shapes, letters, numbers, colors and pictures.’’ For starters, that means it can probably play poker.

The 18-inch-high seeing-eye doll can also solve math problems and pronounce any six-letter word that you print on her little drawing board. Words like ‘‘murder,’’ perhaps? Because Cindy Smart is interactive, she can be taught to speak new words and recognize new objects, so it’s only a matter of time before criminals recruit her. For example, if Cindy were trained to spot police cars and say ‘‘Here come da cops,’’ she could serve as a lookout doll for bank robbers.

At the moment, Cindy is all brains and no movement, but if that changes and she falls into the wrong hands, she could also be taught to spray graffiti (as long as no word is longer than six letters), panhandle, write sitcoms for the WB network or, in a worst-case scenario, bare her navel and become the next Britney Spears.

Off-Kilter Encyclopedia: If Bob Hope’s nose were 4,000 feet long and covered with snow, it would make an excellent Olympic-caliber ski trail, according to ski slope designer Neils Erickson of Vermont.

Nuthouse Bureau: It isn’t easy to become Buddy McNutty, official mascot of the National Peanut Board. Noah Pransky, a Boston University journalism graduate whose resume includes stints as Wally the Green Monster (the mascot of the Boston Red Sox) and Rhett the Terrier (Boston University’s mascot) had to defeat two other mascot professionals: Thomas Richey, whose alter egos include Buckley the Buckle Upper (the mascot for a highway safety program), Firehawk (a tire company mascot), Fuzzy Bear (an Atlanta radio station mascot) and the Tazmanian Devil (mascot for the 1998 Goodwill Games); and Toby Nelson, who has been employed as Harry the Huskie (mascot for the University of Washington) and Sammy the Sounder (mascot for a Seattle soccer team), according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Quote of the Week: From shock rocker Alice Cooper: ‘‘I must be the only father that bangs on the bedroom door [of his kids] and says, ‘Turn that music UP!’’’

Alarming Trends Bureau: The average office desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat, according to a University of Arizona study sponsored by Clorox.

The Color Purple: If your boss hates you, switch pens. According to a survey by the Pilot Pen Co., nine out of 10 employees who write with purple pens say their boss is always happy with their work. Also, men who use red pens are 60 percent more likely to get promotions and raises, the survey said.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: ‘‘Exorcists Battle Demon Toupee’’ (Weekly World News)

It took four priests and a can of specially blessed ‘‘holy hair spray’’ to overpower the satanic wig, according to WWN.

Unpaid Informants: Internetwire.com, dollmagazine.com, Wireless Flash News Service, The Observer of Australia, Steve Beard.

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
Off-Kilter is syndicated to newspapers in the U.S. and overseas by
Creators Syndicate