Sunday, December 25, 2005

Panda Claus: How the Chinese Changed Childhood

When I was a kid (late 1970s) I remember going to the toy store with $5 and being able to buy a decent toy - say small box of Legos. Now for a mere $10 I can buy my children something really neat. Consequently, my son is virtually drowning in toys. I am not cantankerously complaining about how things were tougher in the old days. I did not have a deprived childhood at all. But I am jealous.

This is due in great part to the inexpensive Chinese manufactured goods that have flooded the United States over the past two decades. If only Kennedy or LBJ had gone to China, then maybe I could have benefited.

Because electronics are much less expensive, many, many more of these toys make noise. They usually contain sophisticated sensors and long-lasting built-in power sources. The upshot is that random times throughout the day and night in response to wind, changes in air pressure, plate tectonic activity, changes in the earth's rotation, and solar flares we are serenaded by "Turkey in the Straw," elephants trumpeting, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes," and of course the dreaded Barney song.

You get used to it - although it would be nice if the noises or correlated to specific phenomena (say "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star referred to solar flares or "Eensy Weensy Spider" warned us of incoming rain.) A side benefit is that burglaries and late night refrigerator raids are near impossible. Not even a wall-crawling Ninja could make it past the gauntlet of noisy toys.

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