A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘toys

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Centauri Dreams notes a strange corridor of ice beneath the surface of Titan, a possible legacy of an active cryovolcanic past.
  • D-Brief notes one study suggesting that, properly designed, air conditioners could convert carbon dioxide in the air into carbon fuels.
  • Dead Things reports on the discovery of an unusual human skull three hundred thousand years old in China, at Hualongdong in the southeast.
  • Gizmodo notes the identification of a jawbone 160 thousand years old, found in Tibet, with the Denisovans. That neatly explains why the Denisovans were adapted to Tibet-like environments.
  • JSTOR Daily examines Ruth Page, a ballerina who integrated dance with poetry.
  • Language Hat shares a critique of a John McWhorter comment about kidspeak.
  • Victor Mair at Language Log shares a well-researched video on the Mongolian language of Genghis Khan.
  • Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how Donald Trump, in his defiance of investigative findings, is worse than Richard Nixon.
  • James Butler at the LRB Blog writes about the bombing of London gay bar Admiral Duncan two decades ago, relating it movingly to wider alt-right movements and to his own early coming out.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen notes a recent review article making the case for open borders, disproving many of the claims made by opponents.
  • Paul Mason at the NYR Daily explains why the critique by Hannah Arendt of totalitarianism and fascism can fall short, not least in explaining our times.
  • Corey S. Powell at Out There explains how, and why, the Moon is starting to get serious attention as a place for long-term settlement, even.
  • Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society Blog explores the fund that she had in helping design a set of scientifically-accurate building blocks inspired by the worlds of our solar system.
  • Drew Rowsome reports on the new restaging of the classic queer drama Lilies at Buddies in Bad Times by Walter Borden, this one with a new racially sensitive casting.
  • Starts With A Bang’s Ethan Siegel considers the massive boom of diversity at the time of the Cambrian Explosion.
  • Towleroad features the remarkable front cover of the new issue of Time, featuring Pete Buttigieg together with his husband Chasten.
  • Window on Eurasia considers if the new Russian policy of handing out passports to residents of the Donbas republics is related to a policy of trying to bolster the population of Russia, whether fictively or actually.
  • Arnold Zwicky considers the various flowers of May Day.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • D-Brief shares rare video of beaked whales on the move.
  • Dangerous Minds notes that someone has actually begun selling unauthorized action figures of Trump Administration figures like Bannon and Spencer.
  • Language Log looks at a linguistic feature of Emma Watson’s quote, her ending it with a preposition.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen considers, originally for Bloomberg View, if Trump could be seen as a placebo for what ails America.
  • The New APPS Blog takes a Marxist angle on the issue of big data, from the perspective of (among other things) primitive accumulation.
  • The Search reports on the phenomenon of the Women’s History Month Wikipedia edit-a-thon, aiming to literally increase the representation of notable women on Wikipedia.
  • Towleroad notes the six men who will be stars of a new Fire Island reality television show.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy finds some merit in Ben Carson’s description of American slaves as immigrants. (Some.)
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Belarusians are beginning to mobilize against their government and suggests they are already making headway.

[LINK] “The Playmobil Conundrum”

The New Yorker‘s Jason Wilson describes the problems of Playmobil, a toy that–after his recounting–suffers from its lack of flexibility relative to Lego, and seems confined to a younger and smaller demographic. (I was a Lego kid, myself.)

n a late summer trip to Amsterdam, I visited the newly renovated Rijksmuseum. After a few hours spent looking at paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, I wandered down to the gift shop, wanting to buy something for my two sons back at home. There, underneath a huge plastic Playmobil figure with a familiar shiny smile and clip-on hair, I saw shelves stacked with exclusive, co-branded Playmobil souvenirs—one set depicting Rembrandt’s 1642 oil painting “The Night Watch,” and another Vermeer’s 1657–1658 painting “The Milkmaid.”

In the “Night Watch” package, the seventeenth-century burgemeester Frans Banninck Cocq and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch, are rendered in three-inch plastic form. Cocq wears a black hat that may have been borrowed from Playmobil’s cowboy set, while van Ruytenburch wears one that might have been swiped from the swashbuckling pirate set.

I found the Vermeer “Milkmaid” package even more striking, in part because the kitchenware and bread on the table seem repurposed from the bakery set that I’d bought my children almost a decade ago. I’ve always loved the tiny, specific details of that bakery scenario: Not just bread, but several specific varieties, including miniature rye, wheat, sourdough, and baguettes; Not just pastries, but a bundt cake, croissants, cinnamon buns, and a sheet of berry tarts; Not just a bakery, but a primary-colored, minimalist Bäckerei, with big sunny windows and workers with white coats and little white “paper” hats—a bakery that a Europhile American like myself might believe actually exists in Stuttgart or Linz or Utrecht.

As I examined the Playmobil version of Vermeer’s “Milkmaid,” I realized how Vermeer’s popularity as a painter rests on the same sort of generic, domestic scenarios as Playmobil, with all those charming, joyful, bourgeois little details, the depiction of the everyday things of our lives. That’s why I love Vermeer. I’ve always found myself equally charmed by the sweet details of the Playmobil worlds: A-frame vacation homes with “wood” beams, tiny vehicles that resemble Smart Cars, jungle adventurers with five-o’clock shadows, skateboarders with baggy cargo pants, polar explorers with puffy winter coats and furry hoods, beach lifeguards with orange Snooki-style tans, flight attendants serving blue coffee mugs, Euro camper vans with sunroofs, a construction crew that comes complete with a case of beer and a porta-potty, a timber Alpine lodge with a lederhosen-clad innkeeper playing an accordion and pulling draft beers from the tap.

I bought both the “Night Watch” and the “Milkmaid” sets, and when I returned home I excitedly gave them to my boys, aged thirteen and ten. Both sons enjoy the occasional art museum, and we had a chuckle about the sets, but a few days later, they remained unopened.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 26, 2015 at 8:22 pm

[PHOTO] Legends of Cthulhu for Sale, The Sidekick

Legends of Cthulhu for sale #toronto #leslieville #thesidekick #cthulhu #legendsofcthulhu #toys

WARPO’s Legends of Cthulhu action figures were on sale yesterday at east-end comic book café The Sidekick. Doubtless they still are.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 21, 2015 at 5:38 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross wonders why we need to work so long when productivity and per capita wealth have skyrocketed.
  • At the Broadside Blog, Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a writer.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that ancient Population III stars could, in theory, have rocky planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales warns that the Japanese economy is about to tank.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that young conservative Ben Shapiro is now boycotting Mozilla after Brandon Eich’s departure.
  • Savage Minds has an essay by anthropologist Elizabeth Chin suggesting that Lamilly, a new anatomically-correct doll, won’t take off because issues with beauty are much more deeply embedded in the culture than the designers believe.
  • The Signal examines the proliferation of E-mail storage formats.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Jonathan Adler doesn’t like the pressure applied to Brandon Eich.
  • Window on Eurasia has two posts warning that Crimea’s annexation to Russia will destabilize the Russian Federation, one arguing that ethnic minorities and their republics will be put in a state of flux, the other arguing that Russian nationalists will be upset by the concession of so many rights to Crimean Tatars.

[FORUM] On the import of the plush octopus

I quite like this cheerful plush octopus, distinguishable from other cephalopods for its eight pairs of arms. The cheerful pink makes this one work.

I wondered: Are the frontiers of what can be considered cute expanding? Or is including a cold-blooded invertebrate among the ranks of animals suitable to be made into toys for children perfectly OK? I lean towards the second option, but I still wonder more generally. As we learn more about the world and the ways in which other animals behave in ways like us, even very distantly related animals, and exhibit evidence of being conscious, does the human mind seize upon these similarities and decide that these others are not Other? In the era of Moby Dick, after all, whales were seen as monstrous brutes while now, after learning about cetacean intelligence and culture, whales generally are stereotyped in popular culture as brilliant gentle giants.

On the plush octopus

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm