So Agnostic walks into a toy store and walks out with a question: why is there "no more innovation in toys"? I don't have a good idea here. Can't even say whether the premise is accurate. But yeah, prolly so. And I figure it has something to do with the way grown-ups nowadays can't let go of the kid stuff, much like Agnostic speculates in his post on the adultification of Halloween. Growing up, the closest thing to an "adult" cartoon that I recall was Rocky and Bullwinkle, and that one was marketed to kids. Now you have Seth MacFarlandland and Adult Swim and Spongebob with a wink. And there are also UglyDolls and hipster craft festivals and quote-unquote collectible action figures that bit-torrent-addicted SWPLs leave in the packaging. So fuck the littlins.
And fine with me. I don't envy the new breed for a second anywise. When I was but wee, no one wore seatbelts, and no one much cared if you stayed home alone after school while your divorced mother worked late. You went to your friend's house after school — his divorced mother was at work, too — and you sniffed his sister's panties. You had BB gun battles until someone got hurt. You bought dip-tobacco from teenagers with the money you made mowing grass or shoveling snow or that your best friend stole from his depressed divorced mother's pocketbook. I still remember the hierarchy: Hawken was for pussies; then you graduated to Gold River, then Skoal, then, if you really had balls, Kodiak or Copenhagen. To clean your mouth and gums of baccy-traces, you'd drink creekwater and eat wild onions. That's the way it was back then is what I remember. Soon enough, we had motorcylces and guns.
And jesusfuck, with the internet these days the boys must be jaded before they know how to jerkoff — But Let Me Tell You, there was a time when the quest for porn was a dangerous and exciting adventure. You had to dumpster dive at the apartment complex near the neighborhood where you lived, and when you hit paydirt — always imagining some pussywhipped sap whose wife found his trove and ordered it gone — the booty would be hauled to the woods where sundry Hustlers and Cheris and High Societys and B&W swinger rags would be hidden in plastic trash bags under thickets of leaves as camo. Until someone raided the stash. Probably teenagers. I remember watching Bilitis and Black Emanuelle on Cinemax at my friend's house after the divorced mother was sound asleep on the couch in the same room. I remember finding the absent dad's 8mm reels and a projector and I still have one of the old loops somewhere — a dog and pony show. Then there was the one that I only remember too vividly where this giant-dicked negro was fucking a heffer and when her pussy was bleeding he just dipped his finger in and used the red clot as lube the better with which to finger her asshole. I was, I think, maybe twelve when we threaded that one up. The whir of the projector was loud enough that someone had to stand guard in case the mom came home early.
I remember playing with big globs of mercury in first grade. I remember peanut butter sandwiches before they were allergens and a neighborhood creep called "underpants" who would buy you beer and I remember setting the walls on fire with makeshift hairspray blowtorches. Then, when you were 13 or 14 you'd wait outside 7-11 until someone would buy you the cheapest 24 case and you absconded to the woods and drank as fast as you could until you ruled the night. (No one rules the night!) Then, once you were a bit older you made friends with an impoverished skate punk who worked on cars and whose welfare mother was a lesbian junky and you'd hang out at his place and listen to Minor Threat records and watch Fantastic Planet on mushrooms and you wanted to fuck his sister but she was aloof and had a mohawk and you were afflicted with acne vulgaris anyway and you kept thinking about suicide so why bother. That was then. You remember, don't you? Kids these days, they don't know what they're missing.
But O how I digress, and in with such untoward ugliness! Did I really have to use the word negro? This was supposed a post about toys, which are for kids — Hi Kids! — and in fact I do have a something to say about toys. Or more specifically, about one particular nonexistent toy that I nevertheless coveted as a child — a toy I always thought would be invented one day. Only it never was. As far as I know, at least. And yet I still covet it.
I should probably talk to a patent lawyer. But I trust you, so here's the concept:
First you have a helmet like thing only it's a remote viewer, like a Viewmaster or more like those gadgets you see in airports now where you can watch movies in private or maybe like a virtual reality gizmo. So you wear it and you can see what the camera sees, in real time. Where is the camera? That's the cool part: it's in a remote control car! Or — better still — a remote control ATV, fastened at the windshield to simulate a driver's-eye-view. It would have to be a special camera, something with a wide lens and a miniaturized steadi-mount to mitigate the blairwitchy shake factor. It should also be movable and zoomable via the remote. Then there is the optional piece — a walkie-talkie thing that allows you to communicate with another "driver" operating another car/ATV, or who's maybe just along for the ride in the manner of a Pro-Rally navigator. Get the idea? It's like this: you put on the helmet and see what's in front of the car just like you were in it, only everything that's small appears huge, like if a cat walked into the frame it would be a giant cat and it would be like, holy shit look out for that giant cat! Drive to the edge of the staircase and it's like, oh man, this is gonna be bad. And if your friend has another car with the same gadgetry, you can communicate through the helmet on a cellular frequency or whatever. So you can have adventures and shit. It'd be like gaming only a lot more fun because of the espionage potential. Also, maybe you could record whatever the viewer sees, to play back later on the TV or online. Something like that.
Wouldn't that be fucking awesome?
7 thoughts on “Toys”
Well Chip, you obviously led a much more rambunctious childhood than me. Still, I too often yearn for the more carefree, permissive, pre-safety fanaticism days of the late 70s and early 80s. Back when you could bounce as many times as you wanted on the high dive (which neighborhood pools never feature anymore– liability costs have evidently gone WAY up), slide in whatever position you wanted want down the pool’s slide (including backwards head-first), and dive into the 3-foot shallow end, head and spine health be damned.
Of course, the sullen teenage lifeguards would still yell at you for running on the pool deck even back then. (with a whistle and a “Walk!!!”) Some things never change.
I think your RC-car-cam is a good idea. Hasn’t that already been used in a number of movies and Varicella?
I grew up ever-thankful that I came from an unbroken family. I guess I had (still do) very strong bourgeois norms. I think that also explains my failure to perceive any redeeming value in rap music.
Chip, you are my favorite curmudgeon.
I’m not sure how you would measure lack of innovation in toys over time. GIVEN THAT, though, the parsimonious answer is probably that to the degree that there’s no innovation in toys, it’s for the same reason there’s not much innovation in cat toys or dog toys: limited behavioral repertoire.
Successful human larvae toys are pretty much:
-practice battle (boys)
-practice sexual display
-practice child rearing (girls)
-practice art/music (arguably sexual display)
-practice building shelters
-practice transportation (boys) (wtf?)
I had a whole arsenal of ‘Monkey Division’ weaponry; rifles that shot bullets from the bottom barrel, mortar shells from the top, probably a flame thrower and secret camera in there somewhere. Oh, and King Zor. The all time best toy dinosaur, and he came with a dartgun to shoot him with! Of course if I’d known about the coming collectibles craze, I would’ve never taken him out of the box…sigh.
Here’s the pool where I almost died on several occasions as a kid:
I don’t know if you can see it from the images, but there was a trapeze platform built off one of the cliffs, raised about 20 feet from the water. You’d swing out and at the highest point in the arc you’d drop off. If you chickened out and didn’t let go there was a real chance that you could drop off on the way back and hit the cliff. Amazing.
You’re right. Little girls don’t play with cars, and it doesn’t much matter how they’re decorated. Why should this be gendered? I didn’t grow up to be a “car guy” but as a kid I was obsessed, and the fantasy of Steve McQueen styled automotive adventurin’ came so easily. Maybe it’s another subcat of sexual display. It doesn’t feel like that’s what it was, but what do I know?
It’s funny. The only time I ever think about having kids is when I am stricken with particular nostalgia — for that sense of excitement that took me to sleep after I browsed through the toy section of the old Sears Christmas catalog. It would be neat to have some running insight into the kidworld, where things are at least new and where desire is so pure. I’m also tempted (not really) by the fun of keeping them out of school and letting them do whatever the fuck no matter what. They’d probably disappoint me. Damn kids.
BTW, there’s a James Gunn novel that captures my sentiment. Can’t remember what it’s called.
Wow– those were the good ol’, pre-litigation crisis, pre-childproofing, pre-safety preoccupation days!