A fan asked Yoda creator Frank Oz if 'Star Wars' is 'boy stuff.' Jedi wisdom ensued.

Muppets and Yoda co-creator Frank Oz is having a party on Twitter, and everyone is welcome.

The 74-year-old director and puppeteer is a living legend. He's the creator of beloved characters like Miss Piggy, Bert (of Bert and Ernie), Cookie Monster, and, of course, Yoda.

Oz has been tweeting up a storm in 2018, engaging with fans and talking about his new documentary "Muppet Guys Talking," in which he and the other Muppets founders talk about how they helped create the historic family of beloved characters.


Sometimes he's funny; other times he's a little more serious. But, in all cases, Oz makes it clear that his stories and characters are for everyone.

When one parent asked him about her 7-year-old daughter wanting to wear a "Star Wars" T-shirt but fearing a backlash, Oz had a clear-cut response.

Gender inclusion is a huge issue in fandom, and Oz's tweet matters.

There has been a lot of progress with inclusion in film, particularly when it comes to fantasy and science fiction films.

Three of the last four "Star Wars" films have led with female protagonists, but the genre is still heavily dominated by men. Even behind the scenes, every "Star Wars" film has been directed by a man, despite Lucasfilm being run by Kathleen Kennedy, a woman.

And then there's the issue of gendering products. The "Star Wars" brand is enormous, so having one of the franchise's most famous voices speak out in favor of greater inclusion sends a hopeful message of inclusion.

Oz never wanted to get on Twitter. But now he can't stop.

"I never liked social media. I didn't like Facebook at all. And I didn't know what Twitter was," he says in an interview.

After some nudging from his wife, Victoria Labalme, Oz signed up for an account shortly before the premiere of "The Last Jedi" in December 2017. Labalme says he treats his tweets "almost like little poems," giving time and thought to fans who take the time to send him thoughtful questions.

"It's become more personal for me. I really enjoy talking to them," he says.

After his gender inclusion tweet, another fan thanked Oz for being so generous in his interactions with fans. The fan added a self-deprecating tone to his tweet, but Oz was having none of it:

Leave it to a "Muppet Guy" to remind us that Twitter can still be a force for good.

Oz knows what it's like to feel vulnerable. Countless people have connected with his characters, but he never saw himself as the center of attention.

"I was a very shy person. I was internal. To a great degree, I still am introverted," he says. "The puppets protected me from being rejected."

And for nearly 60 years he's been returning the favor to boys, girls, and anyone else who wants to join in the fun.

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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