Hall of shame

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita Apparently child services is no longer failing thousands of kids and families throughout the county. Who knew? No, the county supervisors and their faithful bureaucrats don’t need posh new digs. They need a reality check. On Tuesday, the supes approved a $200,000 study to examine the various options for what form their reconstructed HQ would take. The options range from an overhaul of the existing structure to what seems to be the inevitable option: a new building at the site of a parking lot slated for construction as part of the $1.8 billion Grand Avenue Project – itself something that should go on the back burner for a long time. The county’s study seems like little more than a way for the supes to pretend they are really considering all the options. In actuality, they have long been committed to making their monument to themselves part of the Grand Avenue Project’s monument to municipal egos. You would think Los Angeles County doesn’t have a problem in the world, seeing how its supervisors giddily plan to spend upward of $200 million on swank new downtown headquarters for themselves. Apparently the county health system – which has long been bleeding cash and closing down care centers – has miraculously recovered. Apparently the Sheriff’s Department has been able to find those desperately needed 1,000 deputies to complete its force. Apparently the overcrowded jails have stopped granting criminals an early release due to a lack of space. Projected price – $221 million, although only a fool would believe a government project would actually come in at budget. Bottom line: We’re looking at a project that could easily end up costing more than a quarter of a billion dollars, and for what? The Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, built in 1960, may not be the most charming structure ever erected, but it’s safe and adequate. But safe and adequate aren’t good enough for politicians who demand creature comforts unavailable to most taxpayers and want their buildings to look the way they imagine themselves to be – glitzy, glamorous and gorgeous. The Hahn Building is “outmoded” and “inefficient,” according to the county’s Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen. That might very well be true, but then, so is our system of roads, freeways and transit. And we’ll go out on a limb to suggest that most residents of L.A. County would rather have a modern and efficient transportation system than a modern and efficient county office building. They certainly would rather have supervisors who care about improving the quality of life for all county residents, not just themselves. Instead of wasting $200,000 studying construction options, the supes should spend some time studying the real – and long ignored – problems of Los Angeles County.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

High-tech doll up for gabfest

first_imgIt’s only 10:30 a.m., but the little girl with her hair done up in blond pigtails is very insistent that she wants to eat. “Mommy, it’s lunchtime,” Amanda says, blinking her enormous blue eyes. “May I have lunch?” “OK,” nods Judy Shackelford, proffering what looks like a half-chewed Oreo. “She starts lunch between 10 and 1 every day.” Making noisy crunching sounds, Amanda’s face is a picture of glee. Hunger satisfied, she requests a drink of juice and proclaims this has been “the bestest lunch ever.” Amanda’s the literal extension of Playmates’ Amazing line, which had $180 million in wholesale business from 1998 to 2001. Shackelford designed them all, starting with Amy all the way through Ashley. Each doll got progressively smarter, more cognizant of its surroundings. “Every little girl imagines talking to her doll,” said John Sinclair, Playmates’ chief operating officer. “Wouldn’t it be great if the doll understood what she was saying?” And to an extent, Amanda really does. After an introduction period that allows her to learn her owners’ speech patterns, she begins talking like an inquisitive 2-year-old. She can tell time, remembers dates, even reminds when important events like Mommy’s birthday approach. And when she asks to be taken to the potty, would-be mommies will quickly learn to take heed, lest they risk a saddened doll unable to hold her virtual lunch in any longer. Competing with gadgets like iPods and cellular phones, gadgets like this represent the tech-heavy tack the toy business has taken. As it faces kids trading in their playthings for video games at earlier ages, the industry has fought back by incorporating more and more technological devices to make their products relevant. “The electronics have to enrich the play experience,” said Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant. “In this market, you have to really excite them, since there’s so much different stuff they can be dazzled by.” Shackelford’s hoping that the difference between Amanda and toys that just beep gratuitously is the emotional component. Though at $100 a pop, she acknowledges it’ll be a tough sell to tight-budgeted consumers, she’s betting Amanda’s big blue eyes and convincing pleas for attention will be enough to win them over. “You know how you can tell a good toy for a girl?” Shackelford said, as Amanda snoozed in silence on a chair beside her. “When you get that yank on your heartstring, then you’ve got a winner.” Brent Hopkins, (818) 713-3738 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “Hmm, cookies and juice,” Shackelford says, shaking her head with a parent’s amused frustration. “There’s a great lunch for you.” This is not Shackelford’s real daughter; it’s not even a real girl. Amanda is a doll, available for nearly $100 in the local toy aisle and expected to be a top seller for the holidays. On the outside, she looks pretty much like a regular little girl’s play-toy, but inside she’s loaded with high-tech gear that allows for “conversation.” Such is the odd contradiction of Amazing Amanda, conceived by Moorpark inventor Shackelford and manufactured by Costa Mesa’s Playmates Toys Inc. The doll is so advanced, with her voice-recognition software, animatronic face and ability to recognize objects, that she seems to really be alive. She doesn’t just cry when you turn her a certain way, she tells you why she’s upset – and gives you a chance to talk her back to happiness. And that unusual dual role extends to her creator, as well. When Amanda’s awake, demanding food, asking to go to the bathroom, singing songs, Shackelford seems very much the concerned parent, doting on the doll like it was her own flesh and blood. But once her plastic and circuit progeny has been ordered to sleep, “Mommy” reverts to her role as chief executive officer of J. Shackelford and Associates, a savvy, longtime player in the ultra-competitive toy industry. “It’s hard to add all the changes in technology, but that’s what I’m good at, knowing how to rearrange them,” she said. “It adds new dimensions in play. My gosh, we used to make dolls out of corn cobs. We’ve come a long way, but you can see where she came from.” last_img read more