Sunday, December 28, 2003


Spending lots of time with a three-year-old lately has made me want -- no, not a child -- toys. Boy's niece has some cool shit. True, I have plenty of adult toys of my own -- my Palm Pilot, my iPod, my GameCube – but the technology of toddler toys astonishes me. For Christmas, K.T. got a weird propane grill toy that talks and has hands. When you put something in its hand (say, a spatula, or a bottle of ketchup), it knows which prop you've given it and will react accordingly. The condiments have faces too and if you remove them from its hands they will talk instead of the grill (all the sounds come from the main unit, but the voice changes). I'd be creeped out by what kind of child these toys create, if not for the fact that K.T. was happily flipping plastic burgers in complete obliviousness of the fact that the grill was talking to her at all, while all the adults in the room were going "Put the fork in again! I wanna see what it says this time!" as I checked the bottom of every prop for the sensors that indicate something that talks.

Fortunately, a lot of our old school favorites are still around, though many have been somewhat revised. On the Friday morning after Thanksgiving, we all sat around reading the sale circulars, and I spotted a Lite Brite and said "I totally want one of those!" And so Boy's sisters, always paying attention, got me a Lite Brite Cube for Christmas. I'd forgotten the conversation about it almost as soon as it happened, but if ever there was a childhood toy that promises big adult fun and a fabulous kitsch factor, it's the Lite Brite, and it was a great gift for me.

Here's the thing: It's hard Well, okay, not hard so much as tedious. I did one of the pre-determined designs last night, and I felt like it took forever to find the right pegs and make all my little fish. I mean, there was serious concentration involved. And I played with one of these when I was four? I can't believe it held my attention. And trust me, I was definitely the sort of child who would have made sure to get every color exactly right. There are even these new stuck-together pegs for making straight lines of the same color, which should theoretically make it go faster. But instead I just spent lots of time searching for the right stuck-together pegs.

Of course, I also wasn't about to stop til my fish were done, and I suppose that explains why it kept me occupied as a child. I've never been one to leave a project unfinished, and I imagine plunking me in front of the Lite Brite was a great way to keep me in one place. If I thought my mom were more evil I'd even suggest she took pegs of a vital color away.

Well, I guess you never outgrow a fondness for pretty-colored things that light up (ooooohhhh...iPod...shiiiiiinyyyyyyy). Brilliant pop art will follow shortly, I'm sure, and photos will be posted.

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