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10 Horrible Things We Do to Teddy Bears

I would like to draw your attention to a horrible epidemic of toy abuse. Teddy bears are being treated like objects in that we find ways to hurt, maim, and destroy them in the name of recycling, art, politics, or even entertainment. It's not that Ursus teddius domesticus is an endangered species (quite the contrary), but do we have to treat them so badly? Let's check out a few awful things that humans have done to teddies.

1. Drop Them From Planes

A Swedish plane flew over the town of Ivyanets, Belarus, last July and dropped teddy bears. Thousands of bears rained down on the town, "bearing" messages such as “Belarus freedom” and “We support the Belarus struggle for free speech.” The storm of bears was traced to Studio Total, a Swedish ad agency, which performed the stunt free for the political group Charter 97. Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, who Charter 97 refers to as a dictator, tried to keep the bear drop out of the news -to no avail, thanks to Twitter and other social media.

2. Use Them in Experiments

The winning entry in the Mad Science Fair at ConDor 2010 was Dr. Allison von Lonsdale of the Institute for Dangerous Research for her experiment called "Teratogenic Effects of Pure Evil in Ursus Teddius Domesticus." In the experiment, distilled Pure Evil was given to pregnant teddy bears to measure its effects on their offspring. The offspring, both miscarried and term, were "euthanized and mounted for display." The experiment is explained in full here.

3. Bottle Them

Canadian conceptual artist Iain Baxter&'s art installation called Animal Preserve(s) puts teddy bears and other beloved plush toys on display in specimen jars. Or are they just canned for later consumption? This installation was created in 1999, and has been copied by teenagers and other subversives ever since.

4. Make a Coat of Them

Artist Sebastian Errazuriz made a coat out of teddy bears in 2009. No doubt it was warm.

The Care Bears Coat by Instructables member scoochmaroo doesn't cover as much skin, but is more colorful. It consists of 45 Care Bears.

5. Turn Them into a Rug

Argentine artist Augustina Woodgate makes rugs from the recycled "skins" of donated plush animal toys. The effect is beautiful, combining the abstract feel of a crazy quilt with the thoughtful combination of colors that go into any work of art.

6. Toss Them

Throwing teddy bears can be cathartic, and it's for a good cause. The teddy bear toss is a tradition at hockey games in some areas of Canada and the United States, particularly around Christmas time. Spectators are encouraged to buy a teddy bear and bring it to a hockey game to toss on the ice. The bears are gathered up and given to hospitals and charity toy drives. Shown is the teddy toss at a Calgary Hitmen game in 2005.

7. Dip Them in Tar

Italian artist Mattia Biagi moved to Los Angeles and became fascinated with the La Brea Tar Pits. That led to sculptures made by dipping objects in tar. Teddy bears aren't his only objects covered with tar, but there are several of them.

8. Knock Them Down

Teddies stack themselves up and you knock them down. The game is simple, but your destructive nature causes mayhem for the poor toys!

9. Turn Them Inside-out

Zurich design studio Atelier Volvox created a collection of plush animals using old donated toys. They removed the skins, reversed them, and re-attached them inside out! The results, called Outsiders, are recognizable but somewhat creepy.

10. Disembowel Them

The Circus of Disemboweled Plush Toys includes, but is not limited to, teddy bears. They are displayed in the manner of a carnival sideshow, as if they were freaks of nature. View the entire collection at your own risk. The horror!

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Pop Culture
Wise Quacks: A History of the Rubber Duck
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IStock

In the middle of a raging storm in 1992, a cargo ship carrying a huge assortment of vinyl toys tipped over. Descending into the Pacific were nearly 29,000 tub playthings, including untold thousands of rubber ducks. Bobbing and drifting, the tiny yellow birds took weeks, months, and years to wash ashore in Hawaii, Maine, Seattle, and other far-flung locations. Their journeys were able to tell oceanographers crucial information about waves, currents, and seasonal changes—what one journalist dubbed “the conveyor belt” of the sea.

The humble little rubber duck had, once again, exceeded expectations.


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Aside from soap, shampoo, and towels, there may be no more pervasive an item in a kid-occupied bathtub than the rubber duck, a generic aquatic toy that usually squeaks, sometimes spits water, and can be teethed upon without incident.

The ducks had their origins in the mid-1800s, when rubber manufacturing began to gain ground. Out of the many animals crafted, they were the most native to water and broke away from the pack. Families who used to make bathing a weekly event prior to Sunday church sessions would entice children to submerge themselves in the murky tubs with a duck, some of which didn’t float. They were intended as chew toys.

In 1933, a latex supplier licensed a series of Disney characters and made inexpensive bath floaters: The most popular were Donald and Donna Duck. While Disney’s brand recognition helped, companies looking to mass-market cheap ducks didn’t want to depend on a license. Sculptor Peter Ganine is believed to have been the now-familiar generic duck’s primary designer, patenting a toy in 1949 for a period of 14 years. Ganine reportedly sold over 50 million of them.

By the early 1960s, the vinyl ducks were free from patent restriction and became a bathroom fixture. They were cheaply made, cheaply acquired, and a soothing presence for children with apprehensions about being dipped into water. Any hydrophobia was eased by the bright yellow duck, who didn’t appear to have a care in the world.

On February 25, 1970, rubber ducks got their biggest break yet. On the first season of Sesame Street, Ernie splashed in a tub while singing an ode to his maritime companion:

Rubber Duckie, you’re the one

You make bath time lots of fun

Rubber Duckie, I’m awfully fond of you

Rubber Duckie, joy of joys

When I squeeze you, you make noise

Rubber Duckie, you’re my very best friend, it’s true

The song went on to sell over 1 million copies as a single and has been included in well over 21 different Sesame Street compilation albums. The image of Ernie playing with the duck was licensed for T-shirts, storybooks, and other merchandise that further endeared the ducks to child-occupied households.

The duck has since undergone some minor advancements. Some, molded to resemble celebrities or athletes, are a popular gift or marketing tool; others are sculpted to giant-sized proportions to bob in lakes during summer festivals. And while the toys now come in $99, Bluetooth-enabled versions, it was the classic yellow duck that made it in 2013 into the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Additional Sources:
“Rubber Ducks and Their Significance in Contemporary American Culture,” The Journal of American Culture, Volume 29, Number 1 [PDF].

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Make Your Own Ship in a Bottle With a New LEGO Set
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LEGO

Building a ship in a bottle doesn’t need to be a stodgy affair, as LEGO’s latest release proves. LEGO Ideas is coming out with a new, 962-piece set called Ship in a Bottle based on the design of an Idaho-based fan named Jake Sadovich.

Sadovich spent three weeks designing his own version of a ship in a bottle using 1400 LEGO bricks before uploading images of the finished result to the LEGO Ideas site in November 2016. His project received the 10,000 supporters it needed to garner a review from the LEGO team in less than two months, and in August 2017, LEGO green-lit plans to build and sell an official set based on his design.

A product shot of a LEGO ship in a bottle against a white background
LEGO

Placed inside a bottle made of transparent bricks, the miniature ship boasts an outsize number of features for its 5-inch-long size, including three sails, six cannons, a crow’s nest, a compass (sorry, it isn’t a working one), and a flag. There's a wax-sealed cork built out of LEGO bricks, too, as well as small LEGO pieces designed to serve as the water beneath the ship.

“There was room to do some crazy building techniques and sneak in some elements in cool colors,” LEGO designer Tiago Catarino told the LEGO Ideas blog, so we expect the set to be a delight to put together. Hopefully, it won’t take you three weeks to build, though.

Some of the other fan-submitted LEGO Ideas projects the company has brought to life include a Women of NASA set, a LEGO version of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, and a design for a fishing store.

The Ship in a Bottle set goes on sale February 1 and will cost $70.

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