Adoration of the Adorable Raises the Cuteness Factor: Pups, Hedgehogs and More

By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, July 2, 2006

It must be a sign of encroaching age that one's tolerance for cuteness increases.

As a young man, I could not stand cute. Cute was for little girls, Japanese fads and crazy old ladies who dress up their little dogs in red sweaters and Santa hats for Christmas card photos. I saw cute as the refuge of the juvenile, the pathetic and the superficial.

Of course, I was an idiot. Did you see those panda videos?


So comes now . This may actually be enough to send me back over to the other side.

At Cute Overload, a winner of a 2006 Webby award for best "People's Voice" site, staff members (essentially, founder Meg Frost and friends) "scour the Web for only the finest in Cute Imagery. We offer an overwhelming amount of cuteness to fill your daily visual allowance."

The site features tons of pictures of cute little animals in cute little animal situations, including cuddling with another animal, staring into a fisheye lens, picking up one paw, relaxing in a sink and so on. You know. You've received the Christmas cards.

But the site does more than flash photos. It's created an entire cute orthodoxy, including the 21 trademarked Rules of Cuteness: "Rule of Cuteness #7: A thing, accompanied by a smaller version of that thing, is always cute."

This is more than a hobby; it's a lifestyle, a religion. If you go to church, you sing the doxology. If you're a follower of Cutism, you chant: "Aw, wook at da woodle bunny! Wudda wudda wudda!"

The Web site's photos are broken down into categories by animal -- birds, bunnies, farm animals and my favorite, hedgehogs. There's a section called "Cute or Sad?" that includes photos of puppies with leg splints and the like. Also, a contest in which viewers can vote on two cute animals pitted against each other. So completely cute is Cute Overload that the Windows alt-tab icon to the site has a little winking emoticon. ; )

If you require more, go to the ingenuously named, where cat owners post photos of their felines, festooned with Post-It notes and so forth. "Do you like to put stuff on your cat?" the site asks. The mind reels with snappy comebacks.

The pet Web site I'd like to see would be video-based. It would be called I'd actually pay money to see those videos.

The Beautiful Ads

Soccer's World Cup rolls on, with the semifinals Tuesday and Wednesday. I am not a soccer fan, per se. I'm not a soccer hata, it's just that I grew up watching baseball and football. However, if you understand the language of sports, you can recognize great plays and great athletes in any sport.

I like the World Cup games but am more amazed by the individual skill of the athletes. For my money, they are showcased best in a run of Nike television commercials that began in 1998.

That year, Nike created an ad featuring the Brazilian soccer team, known for its amazing ball-handling skills and joyful playing style, stuck in an airport. One player breaks out a ball, and a cross-airport skill demonstration breaks out, all set to infectious samba music. Nike ads in successive years have played off the theme, featuring the Brazilian team and other world teams and stars.

Go to YouTube and first search "Nike soccer airport" to watch the 1:31-minute 1998 spot. Then search "Nike soccer" to see a variety of ads; some are mini-epics that clock in at three minutes. Others create elaborate scenarios, such as fictional three-on-three matches featuring the top world stars (all Nike clients) in steel-cage matches aboard an oil tanker. Mephistophelean former French star Eric Cantona is a recurring character in the ads. If they start getting a little weird for you, just go back and watch the airport video again. It'll make you smile.

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