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Sound & fury

Lifestyle | The vuvuzela craze has been far-reaching and profitable, but college football doesn't want to hear the horns

Issue: "Crossing the Rubiocon," Aug. 14, 2010

Worried about having your football viewing pleasure ruined by those World Cup vuvuzelas? Be of good cheer: Both the Big Ten and the SEC have declared themselves vuvuzela-free zones for football, and others may follow. Both leagues had preexisting bans on noisemakers unless (in the SEC) they have a traditional connection to a school: for example, cowbells can be used this fall at Mississippi State during prescribed times.

Those concerned about the health effects of the vuvuzela can also rest easy, maybe: South Africa's licensed vuvuzela manufacturer, Masincedane, makes horns that break into three pieces if used as weapons to bonk someone on the head. They are also quieter: Older cheap plastic vuvuzelas emit sounds up to 138 decibels, but new versions of the licensed ones emit just 100 dbs. (What did you say?)

Did anyone get rich on the vuvuzela craze? Not the Chinese manufacturers. They reportedly sold the molded plastic horns for an export price of 30 cents. Meanwhile the noise machines were selling in South Africa for more than $7, guaranteeing a profit for the middleman. Vuvuzelas are currently available at Amazon.com for $4.99, a price low enough to make one suspect that some football fans will try to smuggle them into stadiums this fall.

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Earplug manufacturers benefited, according to ESPN. Ear Plugs Online said its sales had jumped 121 percent, and Sheppard Medical (the largest ear plug supplier in Africa) sold 400,000 pairs during the World Cup. YouTube also got in on the noisy fun, offering (by the touch of a tiny soccer button at the bottom of the video screen) vuvuzela accompaniments to favorite videos. Several German musicians showed the vuvuzela's musical range, offering videos online of performances of bits of Ravel's "Bolero" and Brahms.

And what about baseball? Surely the vuvuzela has no place in this most tradition-bound sport. The Florida Marlins offered free mini-vuvuzelas at one game to try to boost attendance. The crowd was bigger than usual, but some people blame the noisy vuvuzelas for messing up a line-up change in the 9th inning that cost the Marlins a victory. One AP writer compared it to other dumb baseball giveaways: "It might not go into the books with the same infamy as 10-cent beer night did in Cleveland in 1974, or the giveaway baseballs that turned into giveaway projectiles and prompted a Dodgers' forfeit in 1995, or the gold standard for baseball marketing debacles-Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in 1979."

Hollywood Tom

Thomas Edison is most known for his invention of the light bulb, but he was instrumental in inventing early motion picture cameras and projectors. His Edison Manufacturing Co. (later known as Thomas A. Edison, Inc.) also made short movies, many of which are owned by the Library of Congress. The library has made these short silent films available on the library's YouTube Channel (youtube.com/user/LibraryOfCongress). The films, shot at the turn of the 20th century, feature New York street scenes, immigrant arrivals at Ellis Island, panoramas from tall buildings, bridge openings, and a few comedies, including one that shows a woman in a long dress standing over a street grate so that a gust from it blows her skirts up to her knees.

Group benefits

NeighborGoods (neighborgoods.net) may not change the world, but it is a website that could make borrowing and lending stuff easier. The idea is simple. You register and list items you own that you'd be glad to lend (bicycles, power tools, lawn mowers, vacuums, etc.) and to whom (only friends, anyone, etc.). You also list things you'd like to borrow. Then you decide whether to lend the item when it's requested. The website allows groups to register, so this could be a convenient way for a church or neighborhood group to organize its members to share. Why should everyone own an extension ladder?

Yarn for yarn's sake

According to Wikipedia, yarnbombing is a kind of grafitti "that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted cloth rather than paint or chalk." In New York, yarn bombers have knit cozies for utility poles and bicycles. In Austin, Texas, a yarn artist in April covered 16 six-foot-tall reflective panels on the Lamar underpass with brightly knit afghan covers, being careful not to put stripes next to stripes. People have spotted similar pop-up knitting projects in Edinburgh, Scotland; Windsor, Ontario; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Sydney, Australia. The movement has its radical elements. The Swansea (Wales) "yarnarchists" promise never to knit anything useful. That's apparently in response to some knitters who say the yarn bombers should be knitting for charity rather than decorating signs and hanging pom-poms from trees.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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