Posts Tagged ‘Toys’
October 24, 2016 | by Chantal McStay
What was the Princess Diana Beanie Baby?
In the midnineties, my older sisters and I collected Ty Beanie Babies, as most of our peer group did. When I think of Beanie Babies, I think of the piles. Big piles saturated with every color and texture of fuzz, dotted with shiny black eyes and noses. They had a nice weight to them, too, a little heavier than stuffed animals. The pile became a classic image in the Beanie Baby mythos: the collector buried in Beanies. My sisters kept their collections (numbering several dozen) safely stowed in the pockets of over-the-door shoe organizers with plastic tag protectors and careful inventory lists, while I played with mine, ripping their tags off with abandon and allowing them, despite their Ty-brand prestige, to mingle with my other stuffed animals and dolls. Not that I had any objection to them as a commodity: I enjoyed collecting them, too, lining up at Pink’s or Hallmark—the two local authorized Beanie dealers in my New Jersey town—in anticipation of new releases. I read the trade rag, Mary Beth’s Beanie World. I called my local McDonald’s answering machine to hear which Teeny Beanies they were offering with Happy Meals. I searched in vain for rare, highly sought-after defective Beanies: a Spot with no spot, an albino elephant.
Today the Internet, with its relentless nostalgia mill, won’t let us forget how worthless our Beanie Babies have become. “Remember When Everyone Was Going to Re-sell Their Beanie Babies and Become Millionaires?” a piece on E! asked. I can’t help but feel vindicated by articles like these. My sisters were convinced that their Ty collections would be worth a lot of money someday; they had to be protected. But: a toy you don’t play with? It sounded dumb. It sounded dumb because it was dumb, and I somehow got that right—this at a time when I was wrong about many, many things. This at a time when I thought that Titanic was the most culturally important, most pornographic, longest movie ever made. (I had not actually seen Titanic, but I knew from my own careful taping that you could fit six hours of video on a VHS tape, and Titanic took up two tapes, so it had to be, like, twelve hours long.)
Still, I can’t escape some weird feeling about Beanie Babies: about the bizarre hysteria they generated and the prescience with which they foresaw the Internet as a vast archive for our personal ephemera and its emotional baggage. Read More »
April 26, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
To a little kid, the county fair was pure enchantment. There was a puppet show and a 4-H cake booth and animals and gardens. There were kiddie rides, too, and a man who made wonderful charms out of molten glass. My favorite activity was the “fish pond,” in which you were handed a fishing rod, dipped the hook into a wading pool, and came out with a toy. I liked that it required no luck, no skill, and no courage. Read More »
March 1, 2016 | by Sadie Stein
Growing up, our house was filled with presidents and almost presidents. WIN WITH WILLKIE! blared a sign on our front door. Wilson, having “kept us out of war,” looked down benevolently as you mounted the stairs. At the top, you might be confronted with a Nixon caricature and a poster for Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose ticket. And that’s to say nothing of the large case of assorted campaign buttons in the living room, or the cedar closet that had been completely given over to posters, terrifying rubber LBJ and Reagan masks, and other such ephemera. Read More »
February 5, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Just when you think the book is making a comeback—just when you think reading might actually be cool again, with indie bookstores finding their footing and e-book sales plateauing—you hear that McDonald’s is putting books in their Happy Meals, and your heart sinks. As USA Today reports, “the fast food chain will offer children’s books instead of typical prizes through February 15,” thus ensuring that young customers react with disappointment and outrage at the sight of a book where a toy should rightfully be, beginning, in these malleable minds, an inexorable and probably lifelong association between books and frustration.
- Michelle Dean looks at Robert Lowell’s tempestuous marriage to Elizabeth Hardwick, characterized by an unlikely fusion of abuse and respect: “Though they were married for twenty-three years, their union was worn down by Lowell’s nearly annual hospitalizations for manic depression, his endless philandering, and his alcoholism. At the end of it, almost on a whim, he left her for the writer and ‘muse’—always a loaded term, that—Lady Caroline Blackwood. Then he took Hardwick’s alternately furious and anguished letters to him and folded them, without her consent, into a full-length book of poetry, The Dolphin. This artifact of her humiliation won a Pulitzer … Lowell nonetheless believed that women were his intellectual and artistic equals. He spent most of his life behaving accordingly even as he treated his wives and mistresses so terribly, in romantic terms, that it was almost operatic.”
- Rebecca Mead rereads Sexual Politics, Kate Millett’s seminal 1970 feminist text: “While Millett was publicly cast in the polarizing role of polemicist, there is often in her tone the cool, controlled archness of the literary essayist, a role she might easily have inhabited had the times not called upon her to do otherwise. The book is suffused with a strain of very dark, angry humor, an aspect of Millett’s writing that seems to have been barely noticed—or was perhaps invisible—upon publication. Take, for example, the way she dispatches Freud’s injunction that appropriate sexual development calls for an evolution from clitoral to vaginal orgasm. She calls this ‘a difficult passage in which Freud foresaw that many women might go astray. Even among the successful the project has consumed so much of their productive youth that their minds stagnate.’ If Sexual Politics has endured, it is not just because so much of the political work it recommends remains undone, but also because it is an astringent pleasure to be in the company of Millett on the page.”
- In August 1915, a Jewish businessman was lynched in Marietta, Georgia. He’d been convicted of murdering a thirteen-year-old girl who worked at his National Pencil Company factory, and as Christopher King writes, his story attracted a firestorm of media attention, coming to symbolize the politics of the era: “In truth, he was killed neither by a man nor by the force of men. He died in the raging flames of hatred and the resulting smoke which obscured the impartial vision of justice. A murder, a botched and terribly obfuscated trial, and a tinder box of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and ‘white rights’ in post-Reconstruction Atlanta had resulted in yet another murder, the creation of the Anti-Defamation League, and the first strong resurgence of a then-dormant Ku Klux Klan since the group had disbanded in 1869. In this time, frame-ups, coercion, forced confessions, bribery, and political corruption came into sharp focus for the ‘grift-ridden’ people of Atlanta. And it was all set to music.”
- “Office Space” is a new exhibition—yes, it’s named after the movie—at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts that takes on all the fun new forms of alienation to have arisen in office life this century: “To believe that there is an omnipresent workplace hierarchy to critique or within which to succumb often gives more credit to management strategies than they might deserve, as these strategies can have comparatively shorter life spans than pre-existing structures of affective labor ... The soft power of the workplace is constantly inculcated by exterior power structures, as much as these power structures are—and already have been, in turn—informed by the dispersal of capital. But honestly, who is really still capable of leaving their work at work?”
June 10, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
Raise a tiny plastic goblet, please, to Playmobil’s founder Horst Brandstaetter, who has died at eighty-one. Brandstaetter, who was apparently known as “Herr Playmobil,” joined the family company in 1952, but it wasn’t until the seventies—and the oil crisis—that he was moved to come up with the cost-effective and efficient three-inch plastic figurines we know today. The first three—a knight, a construction worker, and a Native American—made their appearance in 1974, and the rest is toy history. Read More »
November 11, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Little green army men—they don’t have a more specific name—are now in the National Toy Hall of Fame, which exists, in Rochester, and held its 2014 induction ceremonies last week. For those of you who have never played Marble War or seen any part of the Toy Story franchise, I give you Wikipedia:
Army men are sold in plastic bags or buckets, and often include different colors such as green, tan, or gray, to represent opposing sides. They are equipped with a variety of weapons, typically from World War II to the current era. These include rifles, machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, pistols, grenades, flame throwers, and bazookas. They may also have radio men, minesweepers, and men armed with bayonets. The traditional helmets are the older M1 “pot” style that were given to US soldiers during the middle to late 20th Century. Army men are sometimes packaged with additional accessories including tanks (often based on the M48 Patton tank), jeeps, armed hovercraft, half-tracks, artillery, helicopters, jets, and fortifications. Their vehicles are usually manufactured in a smaller scale, to save on production and packaging costs. Army men are considered toys and not models due to this fact historical and chronological accuracy are generally not a priority.
Invented in 1938, little green army men went out of fashion during Vietnam, but they’ve never been off shelves. If you haven’t looked lately, they can be readily found at any dollar store. They’re mostly made in China.
At the 2014 induction, the men in uniform were joined by sort-of-toy bubbles and five-time nominee Rubik’s Cube. It frankly would have been an outrage had the Rubik’s Cube lost out to either the Slip ’N Slide—one of the least fun things in existence and also not a toy—or the craven commercialism of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But who knows? It’s a cruel game. Flexible Flyer has never won because of its lack of snow-related geographical distribution, and the soon-to-be-discontinued sentimental favorite Hess Truck just lost out in its final run. But in the words of a Hess spokesperson, “We are honored that Hess Toy Truck was nominated.” I don’t think he or she was joking.
If next year’s Nobel Prize is anything like the National Toy Hall of Fame, we hope Philip Roth proves a Rubik’s Cube, and not a Hess Truck.