Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nostalgic for toys

Been feeling nostalgic lately - perhaps brought on by Christmas shopping for my 16-month-old (she'll be 18 months at Christmas). Wow, have toys changed since I was a child! The best toy I ever had was a xylophone made from blocks of plastic. You could stack them with the metal xylophone keys in any order, then drop marbles down the middle of the tower. The marbles bounced back and forth as they went down, playing the keys.

I played with that toy from a young age until I was about 12. I can't find it anywhere now. My nieces and nephews have marble runs, which are always fun, and I've found you can get (expensive) wooden marble runs that incorporate xylophone keys, but not in the same way.

To console myself on behalf of my daughter (who is too young for marbles anyway), yesterday I bought her a wooden kitchen on eBay for Christmas. Today I opened the box to check all the pieces were there... and what the hey, I decided to put it together 8 weeks early. It took two hours but I did almost the entire thing by myself (MCP helped out with the hinges and a few tricky attachments). I ache all over from crouching on the floor. But it's the cutest thing in the world. My baby is obsessed with all things housework, which I suppose means I must be finding time to do some chores around the house, or she wouldn't have the role model to copy. She loves putting things in and out of the washing machine (including things that were never meant to be washed), mopping the floors and windows with her special cut-down mop, cooking Cheerios in her tiny pots and pans and serving pretend food at her teddy bear tea parties. So the kitchen was a must.

Let's call it a Halloween present. In Australia there is no trick-or-treating, so she doesn't get to wear a cute costume. She gets a kitchen instead. In this pic she's peering through the curtains over the sink. This thing also has a stovetop, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, washing machine, pegs for pans, knobs that turn and click - even a chalkboard and phone.

With her birthday being in June, I get to shop for cute things every six months. I can't wait! (Seriously, I have not been able to wait - I already have half her presents for the next three birthdays and Christmases.)

But back to nostalgia: when I was four, the girl next door had a penguin slide. These things are rare as hen's teeth in Australia, unless you're prepared to pay exorbitantly. It's actually cheaper to order one from the UK and pay the shipping. Then last week I walked into Sam's Warehouse to buy $2 gardening gloves and found a penguin slide for $8!

This is rather too advanced and confusing for a baby, much as she loved it - she kept "helping" the penguins up the steps, to their detriment. But I have fulfilled my childhood need for a penguin slide. 

Just wish it didn't play such godawful music.

Friday, October 21, 2011

At any price?

There are a few TV shows I don't miss - my favourite right now is probably The Big Bang Theory, which is unusual for me because I don't normally go for sitcoms. But this one is just so funny. I used to love House but it's getting repetitive. Incidentally, both shows provide evidence for my theory that overtly atheistic characters on TV must be portrayed as either grumpy old men or weirdo nerds (viz. BeckerBones, Dexter)*. (Futuristic shows are the exception, where religion seems to fall by the wayside on a regular basis.)

One show I tried to watch was The Mentalist. It's about a guy who once earned a living by using his keen sense of observation to pose as a fake psychic, but now uses it to help solve crimes. (This premise has been copied a few times since, e.g. Lie to Me and Unforgettable, and is itself a rip-off of the awesome show Psych, which makes the occasional hilarious meta-reference to The Mentalist.)

From what little I saw of the show, I gather the main character Patrick Jane (Aussie Simon Baker) is another atheist. He's not a nerd, and certainly not a grumpy old man, but he is an eccentric weirdo. This is probably because his wife and child were murdered by a serial killer. And that's why I couldn't stick with the show, despite being in agreement with Jane over the redundancy of the term "fake psychic". But Jane's background is just too much. As a viewer I can't recover from it. I can't watch a character with that sort of torment in his past. I think it's because in this story, the hero can never win.

Anyway, in an early episode I remember he came up against a "psychic" who held seances to contact the dead. At the end of the show, she gently tells Jane that she's talked to his dead wife, who told her his daughter was never scared during the double murder, that she never woke up. I waited for Jane to tell the woman to shove it. Instead, he listened stony-faced and cried when she left the room.

Such a cop-out.

Today I happened to catch a more recent episode and I'm sorry to say the cop-outs continue. A woman consulted Jane ten years ago when she was trying to conceive. He used his "gift" to tell her she would have a son called Connor and it came true - she believes in his powers even when he confesses ten years later. She does finally accept that it was all a trick. He says (from memory), "Sorry about deceiving you." Instead of replying, "Yeah, well, I was eager to believe", she says "Oh, but you gave me hope!"

To rub salt in the wound, after Jane points out to his cop partner that he didn't give her hope, he sold her hope, the cop says "I think hope is worth it at any price."

How nice it would've been to hear Jane retort, "I think truth is worth it at any price."

Oh well. The episode guest-starred Kelli Williams, who I've liked ever since seeing her on Earth 2.

*I've now found two examples of young, attractive TV atheists:
Dr Cameron from House (but she's kind of nerdy)
Britta from Community  (but she's kind of not always likable)