- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

Chester grows up

“It’s so heartening to see Chester Cheetah stretching himself for a role after all these years. Though he’s long been a towering figure in the world of snack marketing, up to now Mr. Cheetah had never displayed an abundance of range. Frankly, I’d begun harboring doubts he was anything more than a two-dimensional jester. …

“Chester is no longer just an excitable Cheetos fiend. He’s evolved into a complex character, one with mysteriously dark motives. Why is he prodding us to do ill to our fellow man? How did he acquire a villainous, Mid-Atlantic accent? And when did he learn to play chess?

“The short answer to all these questions: Chester is taking aim at a new target demographic. The impetus for the ‘Orange Underground’ campaign was consumer research showing that it’s not just kids who eat Cheetos. According to Cheetos brand manager Tyler Reeves, a full 60 percent of all Cheetos consumption is by adults. This apparently came as a surprise even to Cheetos executives.”

Seth Stevenson, writing on “Chester’s Got a Brand-New Bag,” Monday at Slate.com

Behave or else

“There was a time in Japan when courtesy was second nature. If you saw an elderly person, a pregnant woman or somebody on crutches, you would leap up and offer them your seat. These days, you pretend to be asleep and avoid eye contact at all costs.

“But the spiraling decline of train-seat etiquette may be about to end with the arrival of an elite, fearless and impeccably polite ‘manners squadron’ — to be unleashed on the Yokohama underground network in an attempt to avert a breakdown of the ‘Japanese way.’

“The unit’s mission is simple: to patrol the length of the train and make sure that any seats — highly prized on Japan’s packed commuter lines — are vacated by the young and offered to those who need them.

“The officers will have no legal authority, no powers to fine and virtually no practical sanction at all. Their success will depend entirely on the high visibility of their bright green uniforms, and their capacity to charm or shame the sitter into becoming a stander.”

Leo Lewis, writing on “Japanese manners squad will force you to give up that seat,” Wednesday in the Times of London

Ideological mess

“The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case of Fox network vs. the FCC, after the U.S. court of appeals ruled that the FCC could not fine the network for the use of ‘fleeting expletives’ by Cher and Nicole Richie. …

“But I will reiterate my constant reminder that the broadcast-decency issue is one of those controversies that don’t break down along traditional liberal-conservative lines. Here, we’re essentially seeing a cultural-conservative argument (that the government has a role in promoting public morals) against an economic-conservative one (that the government should stay out of the affairs of private business, not to mention out of viewers’ living rooms). And you’ll find ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ lining up on both sides of the argument.

“The big unknown — which I’m not legal scholar enough to guess at — is whether the case will prove the court’s pro-business leanings, or something else. But it would be nice if the ruling provided some clarity in the muddled question of what Washington can and cannot police.”

James Poniewozik, writing on “Will SCOTUS know indecency when it sees it?” Monday at the blog Tuned In at Time.com

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