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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?