Mii statuette
Paul Thiel  /  www.allisonqmccarthy.com
Mii so corny: An artist can help Wii fanatics honor their virtual characters' achievements here in the carbon-based dimension.
By Brian Tracey Business Editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

In the old days, heroes were commemorated with stone statues in public squares. In today's video-game obsessed society, players can get a Mii.

American artist Paul Thiel is crafting figurines that are replicas of the virtual characters — also known in geek-speak as "avatars" — that are used to play games on the Nintendo Wii, the hugely popular new game console.

Players can customize these characters, called Miis, or they can use caricatures already loaded onto the console. Thiel is now giving Wii fanatics a chance to own them too, according to his friend and agent Allison Q. McCarthy.

Thiel created his first Mii sculpture as a Christmas present for McCarthy, who could not stop playing with her Wii, or boasting about her gaming achievements.

"I love to play Wii sports, so naturally it made perfect gift," McCarthy told Reuters in an e-mail.

The six-inch-tall figurines are made from a type of clay. They are then baked, sanded and hand painted.

"The hair is the toughest bit because it takes the most time to get right," McCarthy added.

Thiel's Mii has been featured in several gaming and gadget Web sites and magazines. He plans to auction off the figurines over the Internet.

Maybe he could brand them Mini Miis.

Not-so bad ideas

  • A stuffed squirrel clutching a fishing rod. A dead badger hefting a football for a winning pass. Other ex-rodents enjoying a carousel ride.

Welcome to the world of Sam Sanfillippo, a funeral director who has amassed a large collection of stuffed animals in unconventional scenarios to cheer up guests mourning their loved ones — and created a mini-tourism attraction.

"This is to show kids when they come for a funeral and they cry," said Sanfillippo, 86, the semi-retired director of the Cress Funeral Home in Wisconsin's capital city of Madison.

dead squirrels on display
Staff  /  Reuters
Rodents in repose: Sam Sanfillippo poses next to a display of stuffed squirrels at the Cress Funeral Home in Madison, Wis. earlier this month.
In one room, stuffed squirrels drink and carouse in a warmly lit saloon, while over at "The Woodland Fair," families of dead animals enjoy fair rides and three squirrels dance on stage in grass skirts in the "Topless Girlie Show."

After serving as a decorated medic in World World II, Sanfillippo has worked in the funeral business in Madison as he built up his collection of stuffed animals.

The squirrels and chipmunks have all been killed by cars, with the exception of the albino squirrels, on display playing basketball or driving miniature cars. Those were sent to Sanfillippo by friends in Marionville, Mo., who raise them.

"The first time they came I was amazed to find a box of eight frozen squirrels at the door,"  Sanfillippo said.

Buses of tourists come to see his collection on a regular basis. Andrew Johnson, one of the Cress Funeral Home's directors, said the home is happy to accommodate guests if they call ahead and no funerals are under way.

Yes, that would be undignified.

  • Speaking of deceased-creature creations, British pet owners can now turn their dead animals into diamonds.

According to the Ananova Web site, the man-made gems use carbon from the pet's ashes from Pet Crematorium CPC, of Thiplow, Hertfordshire.

The firm's spokesman, Duncan Francis said: "Having a stunning diamond created from the pet's ashes provides an everlasting link which some people find very comforting."

The crematorium charges from $4,100 to nearly $30,000, depending on the size of the diamond.

We think that's a small price to pay for the ultimate pet rock.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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