A Trip Down the Memory Lane Toy Aisle
Posted 3 Days Ago
Bel sent us a Christmas present. It's a thought-provoking compilation of toy ads from our childhood. (Thanks, Bel. )
Elektra and I were blown away. First of all, we can remember all of these toys - though not owning any of them. We just remember the ads. Neither of us were into manufactured toys all that much, preferring to make our own fun.
But this collection is chilling - sort of like watching history as written by Ionesco. Those toymakers were the propagandists of the Cold War era. They obviously intended to train America's children to accept the gender roles assigned to them by an all-caring corporate world, and grow up to be good little consumers.
Judging from this collection, girls could:
Learn fashion sense from Barbie.
Learn hairstyling from Chrissy, the doll whose hair 'grows'. (Prepare to be creeped out.)
Chat and gossip with Chatty Cathy and other talking dolls.
And...well, that's about it, really. Oh, wait: when they got old enough, they could play 'Mystery Date' and dream about meeting cool boys.
In the meantime, boys were learning to:
Operate heavy machinery.
Blow things up.
Shoot, shoot, shoot to kill - with western rifles, tommy guns, gats of all kinds, water pistols, water rifles, water cannon, air cannon...you get the idea.
Become expert in the military chain of command.
Launch and target nuclear missiles.
Explore outer space, and fight Bad Guys there.
Make LOTS of noise.
The ONE THING that both genders could do together:
Black magic. Yes, you heard me. Both boys and girls are pictured creating shrunken heads. I remember this set - I wanted one, but my mom said no, even though we knew a missionary who owned one. (It wasn't real, honest.)
There's also a unisex set for making yucky plastic bugs to annoy Mom and Dad with. Apparently, the genders are united on the Halloween front.
If you survive this trip through the Twilight Zone to the end, you get a bonus. You get to see a toy ad that would get the company thrown off the air today....
The 'Johnny Reb' cannon.
Yes, it fires a shot at a target. And yes, it could take out an eye. But that's not what's wonderful about it. What's wonderful about it is that is comes complete with a REBEL FLAG. Yes, children, you can offend everyone in your neighbourhood, and get your parents labelled rednecks. We're sure this toy sold like hotcakes in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Even better is the song: 'We'll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home...'
Ah, those innocent McCarthy times. Where did they go? And can we send the rest of the garbage with them? And just how disgusted were those toymakers when, after all their efforts, America's young men started singing something like this?
Enjoy buying Christmas toys for the kids you know. We recommend bubble-making machines or hula hoops, our personal favourites. Elektra wants me to point out that 'you can't weaponise Silly Putty.' Good point.
Make fun, not war.
Sunday Freebie Concert: Blind Tom Wiggins and the Battle of Manassas
Posted Last Week
Here's your Sunday free concert.
Before you watch and listen, consider this:
The composer of this tone poem about the Battle of First Manassas - the first battle of the US Civil War, which the Union thought was going to be a picnic until the Confederates almost took Washington - was not only an enslaved African American pianist from Georgia...
Thomas Wiggins was blind. And suffered from autism.
NOW watch the video, as this energetic young pianist - and she's wonderful - tackles music that is far ahead of its time.
And think about it: this was the way Thomas Wiggins communicated with the universe. I find him admirable. He composed his first piece at about four years old, imitating a rain storm. At six, I could about bang out 'There Shall Be Showers of Blessing'. You go, Tom.
Want to know more about this unusual composer? Here is what Mark Twain said about him. It's both insightful and a bit embarrassing if you tend to be a Twain apologist. I don't - Twain's faults were many, and you can see some on display here. But allowing for the primitiveness of 19th-century social attitudes, his account provides a glimpse of Wiggins' rare genius. And he's honest about it, which is more than some would have been. They might have pretended they were less uncomfortable around the uncanny than they actually were.
A pianist named John Davis specialises in playing Wiggins' music. Here's another Youtube:
Abe Makes 'Em Go ROFL
Posted Last Week
We all know the expression 'rolling on the floor laughing'. We use the smiley every day. But have you ever seen anybody falling down laughing?
Abe Lincoln did. He was usually the cause of it.
According to Ida M Tarbell, the investigative journalist - possibly the FIRST investigative journalist, though, frankly her style isn't much to brag about - reported this story in 'McClure's Magainze' in 1895:
'It took some four weeks to build the raft, and in that period Lincoln succeeded in captivating the entire village by his story-telling. It was the custom in Sangamon for the "men-folks" to gather at noon and in the evening, when resting, in a convenient lane near the mill. They had rolled out a long peeled log on which they lounged while they whittled and talked. After Mr. Lincoln came to town the men would start him to story-telling as soon as he appeared at the assembly ground. So irresistibly droll were his "yarns" that, says Mr. Roll, "whenever he'd end up in his unexpected way the boys on the log would whoop and roll off." The result of the rolling off was to polish the log like a mirror. Long after Lincoln had disappeared from Sangamon "Abe's log" remained, and until it had rotted away people pointed it out, and repeated the droll stories of the stranger.'
The town's not there any more, and wasn't in Tarbell's day, but it was in Sangamon County, Illinois, on the 'frontier' at that time.
Now, what a talent for a future President to have: the ability to make his audience fall over laughing.
There's a lesson for h2g2 in there, somewhere...
Want to read the article? Be my guest. It's full of interesting pictures you won't find elsewhere: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11548/11548-h/11548-h.htm
Don't Let Them Eat Bread
Posted Last Week
Every year in July, the French celebrate their Revolution. In Philadelphia, the French restaurateurs celebrate along with them by throwing TastyKakes (an unhealthy snack food) from the battlements of Eastern State Penitentiary. Since the place is a ruin, this is merely picturesque, and the militia are not called out. They also guillotine some watermelons instead of the restaurant owner's wife, who plays Marie Antoinette. All of this is because of the famous remark that Marie allegedly made when told the peasants had no bread, to wit, 'Let them eat brioche'. Good enough.
Now, our local Harris Tweeder, a major grocery chain, is the go-to place for our food supply. All of my relatives are horrified by the fact that the only bread I can eat, Udi's frozen dinner rolls, cost $7 for six rolls. With those rolls, I manage to have a lunch sandwich once a day. But only if the store keeps them in stock.
For the last week and a half, I've had to subsist on gluten-free crackers. Why, you ask? Because the store personnel neglected to order the rolls.
Phone calling takes place. Long discussions are necessary to identify the food item in question, and to persuade the staff to look it up and estimate the possible arrival of these rolls. We are now informed that they expect a shipment on Saturday, and that they'll save us a couple of packages.
All this is necessary because, contrary to their apparent logic, I can't just march over to the overstocked bread aisles and buy a loaf of 'regular' bread. Which costs a fraction of the price. If I want a piece of bread, I have to wait for the shipment of expensive stuff.
Now, if the rest of the world were in this position, I think there would be riots. Watermelons would roll in the town square. There would be cries of, 'Let them eat gluten-free bread!'
It gives one pause.
Posted 2 Weeks Ago
Improving your mind can lead to discontent. For example, ever since Elektra watched the most recent Ig Nobel Prize awards ceremony, she's been tempted to imitate Miss Sweety Poo, the eight-year-old timekeeper who stops people from droning on in their acceptance speeches. Miss Sweety Poo can be seen here:
The other day, Elektra says, she was tempted to go up to the persistent Sally Army bellringer and intone, 'Please stop. I'm bo-ored!' Instead, she smiled and gave him a dollar. Ringing that bell must be hard work.
Just now, we were sitting in the car, listening to the radio. We do this because I haven't been driving much these days, due to some vision problems, and I found out by bitter experience that if I don't let the car run every few days, it gets mad at me and the battery stops. Then I have to call Triple-A, and I get fussed at and patronised by my brother-in-law, the mechanic and former racing driver. So we go out and listen to the radio for a while.
We were enjoying a promo interview with the conductor of the Duke University choirs, who was touting this evening's upcoming performance of 'Messiah'. Very enjoyable, especially when they played the 'Amen'. Ah, bliss. No boredom there.
Then the next spot came on: the Grammy Awards. Big news, all the top songs are being unveiled via internet, Twitter, etc. Excerpts were played.
Alas, none of that sounded like music to our ears. What it sounded like, according to Elektra, was 'a bunch of people trying to impose on you. They're weren't selling anything, but...'
Some 'song' called 'Stay with Me' involved a rather high-voiced singer claiming, 'I'm just a man,' to which Elektra snorted, 'Are you sure?'
By the time they got to the 'Country' category, she started saying it...
...you guessed it...
'Please stop. I'm bo-ored!'
We turned off the engine and went back inside. I think the battery should be happy now. Our ears aren't.
George Frederick Handel, thou should'st be living at this hour.
I'm not kidding. I'd prefer Klingon opera. Even 'Aku and Melota'.