Hit & Run: The Big Bird migration

Sesame Street, with its cast of weird monsters with big mouths and bright primary-coloured hides, is not only still thriving, but has gone global almost four decades after its birth. The legendary puppeteer Jim Henson, the alter ego of Kermit the Frog, may have been dead for 18 years, but characters he introduced to Sesame Street as long ago as 1969 - Big Bird, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, Snuffleupagus and The Cookie Monster – are almost exactly as they were back then, though now they are multilingual.

You can hear them on a double CD and DVD set produced by Putumayo World Music. Billed as "a lively musical journey through Sesame Street productions around the world", it features 13 tracks from versions of the show produced locally in South Africa, Brazil, India, The Netherlands, China, Israel, Tanzania, and other places.

The songs and their accompanying videos worthily reflect preoccupations of the countries where they are made.

South Africa's contribution is the "Pollution song", a hymn to the joys of picking litter off the streets and dropping it in the dustbin. "Here's my solution: we don't want no more pollution" runs the refrain. And who could argue with that?

In Mexico, Plaza Sesamo's mission is to persuade the young to eat more fruit, so that little boys can grow up "big and strong" and little girls can be intelligent princesses. These gender specific aspirations are laid out, in Spanish, in the song "Ricas Frutas" with one line well worth quoting. "A watermelon," it says, "will bring you joy."

In Israel, Ronnie Rock sings a song with the exhortation "let's live in peace with eternal love" while in Russia's Ulitsa Sezam, the human characters serenade the joys of getting up to begin a day's work. "Let the day be peaceful and kind," they ask. From Tanzania, Kilimani Sesame brings you a song with the self-explanatory title "Don't be sad". Those of us with long memories of Jim Henson's creations have just one serious complaint that soils his blessed memory, which was that in 1970, he inflicted a song called "Rubber Duckie" on the record-buying public. Sung by Ernie, in his bath, in tribute to his favourite toy, it reached the charts and followed you everywhere, because it was the sort of jingle that is annoyingly easy to remember. However, if you were by chance one of those peculiar people who actually liked it, there is a real treat in store for you now. You can hear it again, complete with splashing and squeaks, sung in mandarin by one of the cast of Zhima Jie, China's Sesame Street. "Zhou ya ya how bow bow" is how I think the lyrics go, but please don't quote me on that. Anyway, it sounds better than the original.

Fugitives need not apply

The French Foreign Legion has long been the last refuge for scoundrels from all over the world. It has traditionally accepted recruits with no-questions-asked about their past, as long as they are willing to submit themselves to the legendary training regime. However, it seems as if these days are over. According to Captain Samir Benykrelef they no longer "accept the hardened criminals anymore, the murderers or rapists".

Good to know, although one would hope the checks to which new soldiers are now subject also flags up lesser misdemeanours. Toby Green

Coy mistress? Don't believe it

Female coyness is not an expression of inner purity. It's a tactic of scheming women, of any species, when looking for a mate. Biologists from Bristol University have studied mating birds, and believe females play hard to get only so that males will prove themselves more "helpful" parents than rivals. The report makes the distressing observation that, "There are men who have mastered the ability of conning women into thinking they are helpful." You don't say. So for centuries men have been saying, "Sleep with me, Gwendolen, and I'll be really kind to any offspring"? The swine.

John Walsh

Fashion basics + clever marketing = success

Outerwear is rarely glamorous, but the cold snap may go some way towards explaining "double-digit" growth in UK sales at Uniqlo, purveyor of basics with more style than might reasonably be expected. After all, the Japanese company does a nice line in down jackets. But neither is Uniqlo faring badly where international business is concerned: new stores will open next year in Singapore and Russia, and there are currently 54 shops outside Japan. The high-street chain is the budget hot ticket du jour.

Even the company's name – a distillation of "unique" and "clothing" – chimes with the times. Uniqlo sells premium Kaihara denim, cashmere sweaters, fleece tops and more, all designed with an eye for function and at prices that are arrestingly low.

As well as meeting a demand for classics – the economic climate dictates that the ephemeral nature of trend-led fashion is not to be tolerated – the company has lately also been innovative in terms of marketing.

Following its British launch in 2001, by the middle of the decade Uniqlo seemed jaded, and struggled against Topshop, H&M and New Look.

But there's nothing like a clever collaboration with bright young designers, artists and photographers to boost the profile of a faceless corporation, and in 2007 alone Uniqlo produced original T-shirt designs with Nigel Scott, Osamu Tezuka and more. A reversal of fortunes was the result. Today, Uniqlo's timeless design is exactly what the world is looking for.

Susannah Frankel

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'