- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Must-have toys

“Now the toy-buying season is here again, and … parents will be lining up around the block, in the snow, outside Toys R Us, to get a toy that, of the thousands of new toys released this year, is the only toy that every child must have. The must-have toy is the apotheosis of the marketing of toys as fashion accessories. …

“There was no must-have toy (MHT) last year, or the year before that; the last MHT was Furby, the robotic feline, in 1998. Some industry analysts … see this as evidence of the toy industry’s continuing slippage in its competition with video games — PlayStation 2 and Xbox were the MHT’s of the past couple of years. … Christopher Byrne, an independent toy analyst … sees the decline of the must-have toy as a sign that toy buyers are becoming more rational about toys. ‘Parents have awakened to the fact that the toy they practically killed themselves to get may not have had the appeal that they expected,’ he told me recently. ‘I can’t argue with more than 44 million Furby toys sold, but how many of those did kids play with for a long time?’”

John Seabrook, writing on “Child’s Play,” in the Dec. 15 issue of the New Yorker

Merry intolerance

“The holiday ritual of the ACLU censoring Christmas carols, mangers, and angels in the name of separation of church and state has created repercussions beyond what may or may not be permissible for the government. Since religious references to Christmas have been deemed by the lawsuits to be ‘offensive’ to followers of other creeds, private businesses are also banning religious displays. …

“Take away all carols and nativity scenes, replace them with snowmen and Santa, but there is still a problem with Christmas that could make it offensive. Its name. ‘Christ mass.’ Not only does it name the Christian deity, but it makes a direct reference to a Christian worship service. This is not inclusive. It does not respect the feelings of those who follow other religions or no religion. It is intolerant. …

“Notice your Christmas cards. Notice how many of them shy away from the very mention of the word, replacing the traditional greeting ‘Merry Christmas’ with the generic ‘Happy Holidays.’ …

“Today’s squeamishness about the name of Jesus Christ, however, proves something important. In the emerging polytheism of today’s new civil religion, Jesus refuses to join the pantheon.”

Gene Edward Veith, writing on “Merry ‘winter festival’?” in the Dec. 20 issue of World

‘Springtime’ for Mel

“‘The Producers,’ one of the most-lauded and successful Broadway musicals in recent memory, began life 36 years ago as a movie that got queasy reviews and quickly sank at the box office. It was the brainchild of comic genius Mel Brooks. …

“When it opened, in 1968, the movie got mixed notices, with such words as ‘vile’ and ‘tasteless’ cropping up in the prominent reviews. For one thing, it was considered unthinkable to satirize Hitler only 23 years after the end of World War II. For another, what chance did a send-up of show business … have in the era of Vietnam and student rebellions and acid rock? Not much.

“‘It started out in life as just a title,’ Brooks likes to say: ‘Springtime for Hitler.’ The phrase leapt to Brooks’s lips during a press conference for a 1962 musical called ‘All American’ … for which Brooks had written the book. A reporter yelled, ‘What are you going to do next?’ and Brooks answered, ‘Springtime for Hitler.’ He was just being outrageous … but the phrase stuck.”

Sam Kashner, writing on “Producing ‘The Producers,’” in the January issue of Vanity Fair


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