Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Toys that make noise

Some toys are supposed to make noise: clacking, whirring, popping, banging. That's to be expected, and it's as ancient as toys themselves. Equally ancient are parents screaming for their kids to play more quietly, and the urge to kill all the toy-makers who needlessly amplified their children.

When I was growing up, a new sort of noisy toy came on the scene: the electronic toy that made roars, shrieks and whistles. My favorite was the Star Wars blaster, a black plastic match for Han Solo's pistol. It made a buzz-saw-like shriek that was supposed to sound like a blaster, but really sounded like a dentist's drill underwater. It drove my mom nuts.

Now my kids have a number of electronic toys, but unlike anything I had growing up. These are toys that talk and play music. Now, talking and playing music is not that unusual; we had "Operation," talking Barbies and toy pianos in my day. But no one had yet to dream up completely superflous music and speech. If you told me, "Let's put an electronic speaker in this truck so it can have an engine sound and back-up beeper," I wouldn't have agreed but I could at least understand the urge. But if someone said, "Let's put an electronic speaker in this truck so it can play 20 seconds of electric guitar riffs and have some masculine voice holler 'Catepillar Power!' ", I would have been speechless. But such noise-for-noise's-sake is now so common-place it's hard to find a simple Big Wheel or Sit-n-Spin that is not equipped with its own prosthetic enthusiasm.

What's going on here? My guess is that such things are geared at getting the attention of toy-buyers, not the kids themselves. The toys lining the shelves thrash and scream, as if to say, "Buy me! Buy me!" And the confused adult, not really knowing what's cool or interesting to kids these days, will be easily swayed to grab the biggest, loudest, brightest item they can find.

Or, more depressingly, it may be that the toys are competing with other loud, bright, annoying things like, oh, say, the television set. Perhaps the average parent is not annoyed by these screaming music monstrosities, since they long ago learned to tune out the background noise of their TVs.

For our household, it is now a rule: all toys must be capable of quiet play. That doesn't mean the play will be quiet, of course, but at least all shrieks, explosions and roars are human-generated.



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