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Go green, ye dogs!

Plus: Localist, R.I.P.

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RATS!: Captain Sewer reps Little Rock Wastewater.
  • RATS!: Captain Sewer reps Little Rock Wastewater.

All kinds of stuff drifts into the offices of the Arkansas Times on a daily basis. Some of it even has a media bent.

This week's highlight: “The Adventures of Captain Sewer,” a coloring and activity book for kids, distributed by Little Rock Wastewater. Never has the word “bio-solids” been so much fun!

The star of the show is Captain Sewer, a gray rat decked out in a pirate costume and armed with a plunger. What's more, when we called to get more information about the activity book, who should answer but Joe Schaffner, the man behind the mask when Capt. Sewer makes public appearances at schools and events.

Schaffner (who is, when not arrayed in rat fur and pirate wear, the community relations coordinator for Little Rock Wastewater) said that Capt. Sewer started out as a joke at Wastewater back in the 1980s. However, after officials there decided there was a need for a character to reach out to school kids with a water conservation message, the captain morphed into a comic-book-style, tights-wearing clog fighter, complete with his own comic book.

While the captain's original incarnation had a good run, appearing at gatherings of waste water officials in Washington, D.C., Canada and Budapest and teaching tens of thousands of kids about going green, when the Capt. Sewer copyright came up for renewal last year, it was de-cided that the superhero shtick and accompanying activity book were getting a little long in the tooth and that a revamp was in order.

“It's geared toward kindergarten through fifth, and some people came up with the idea that a superhero is a bit old for that audience,” he said. “So, we came up with an animal type character. We thought, hey: Sewer. Sewer rat!” With that, the captain morphed from man to rodent, with the pirate theme added to make him a little less … you know …  ratty.

Since April, when the mascot-style costume arrived, Schaffner has made appearances at around 20 locations in central Arkansas and handed out over 1,500 activity books. While preschoolers tend to shy away and tweens are much too cool to pay attention to anything so gauche as a 6-foot water-conserving rat who hands out comic books, Schaffner said the response from the grammar school set has been great.

“The kids get a kick out of it,” he said. “We make certificates that say you're an honorary first mate. … They want to hug me, they want to shake my hand. It's fun.”

 

We came back from the July 4 holiday to sad news: The books are closing on Little Rock's influential arts and music pub Localist Magazine.

In a statement on the Localist website, publisher T.J. Deeter said he created the magazine five years ago to “champion the greatness of our humble little state,” adding that it was originally an attempt to get greater recognition for Arkansas's indie, punk and hip hop scenes.

 “I feel like we have brought the changes and the attention we were aiming to get,” Deeter writes. “Now we have the coverage of ‘Rock Candy,' the blog by Lindsey Millar of the Arkansas Times. Kyle Brazzel at the Dem/Gaz has done a great job writing about happenings in the weekend section, and onthagrind.net is making its place covering the growing hip hop scene.”

Deeter goes on to ask readers not to feel sad for him, saying that he has plenty of other projects to fill his time. Too, he leaves open the possibil-ity of a Localist reboot.

“I do, however, reserve the right to come back with Localist,” Deeter says, “if I ever feel the need to do so because there is still no coverage of the art shows and artists in Arkansas.”

Full disclosure: Current Arkansas Times entertainment editor Lindsey Millar was the editor at Localist from 2005 to 2007.

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