Play No More
By Dale Dobson,

In a world where children grow up ever faster, abandoning toys and traditional play activities for full schedules, serious relationships, and jobs at earlier ages, toy companies have begun to reorient the classics for the new paradigm. Expect to see the following exciting "new generation realism" products this Christmas:

Classic modeling material has been recast for engineers-to-be, who must roll and shape the "doh" to exacting specifications with tolerances less than .0002 millimeters. Comes with a challenging activity booklet filled with difficult, deadline-plagued prototyping projects. Available in a practical range of colors: beige, tan and white.

The Game of Death
This update of the popular boardgame teaches kids that no matter how hard you work and how much you accomplish, you're still going to die. Players start out as optimistic, idealistic high-school graduates, acquiring crippling debt, traumatic memories, criminal records, ex-spouses, substance dependencies, and illegitimate children along the way. The winner is the one who dies last, paying ironic tribute to humanity's inexplicable will to survive.

Extruded Steel Coil
What used to "walk down stairs, alone or in pairs" is now a functional length of spring steel, useful for repairing screen doors and lawnmower throttles. Make dozens of shapes, as long as they're all short, thin and slightly curved. Tin snips and safety goggles included!

Baby I-Hate-You
Tiger Electronics introduces the most realistic infant doll ever produced. Sophisticated electronics allow Baby to "learn" to beg for things she has seen on TV and scream if she doesn't get them. Put her with another Baby I-Hate-You, and she will reject your values and get an obscene tattoo just to show you how wrong you are.

Barrel of Primates
New augmentation of a classic game lets players take opposite sides of the Evolutionist/Creationist debate in a battle of science versus faith. Evolutionists attempt to connect a string of plastic hominids in order of genetic descent, while Creationists try to break the string with Biblical arguments. Creationists can get an extra turn by playing the "missing link", "evolution is only a theory" or "because the infallible Word of God says so, or at least the translated Word of William Tynsdale says so" cards. Evolutionists can get an extra turn by playing the "Archaeological DNA", "bacterial evolution in our own time", or "Cain's Wife: If God only created the Jews, who created everyone else? Some other God? Satan?" cards. Game ends when the chain of Primates is complete or completely wiped out, neither of which seems likely in the foreseeable future.

Hey-Man and the Bastards of Unicorp
6" boys' action figure mops floors and cleans toilets at the headquarters of a large corporation, where his smug white-collar superiors can't even be bothered to learn his name. Whenever trouble threatens, he sneaks home and drinks, until one day he just snaps. Comes with mop, overalls, unfilled prescription for expensive antidepressants, bottle of Cisco and AK-47, plus full-color mini-comic: "I have no power, and I never will."

Difficult-Bake Oven
Just like being in great-great-great-great-great-grandmother's kitchen! Kids will invest days of endless toil in growing wheat and sugar cane, beating the wheat into flour between heavy stones, refining the sugar through an arduous process of boiling and drying, raising chickens to maturity to produce eggs, mixing everything in a heavy iron bowl, chopping wood to heat the primitive stove, and baking directly on the carbon-blackened stove top. Produces a collection of unappetizing-looking little brown cakes, just in time for Thanksgiving if the summer rains are good.

G.I. Jack
Exciting fantasy play for boys. Faced with unappetizing employment prospects after dropping out of high school, the members of the Jack team signed up to "be all they can be" in the U.S. Army. The group stumbled hastily through boot camp before being handed weapons and sent overseas to fight a shooting war in a widely-condemned invasion of a sovereign country. Armed with the latest military technology, they discover that most of it is useless against a shadowy, unpredictable, widespread insurgency as they fight the enemy "Jihad Jack" forces. Debut 4" 'Code Name: Slacker' figure comes with boombox, Twinkies from home, unused stationery pad, picture of President Bush and articulated middle finger. Includes an exciting mini-comic book, "G.I. Jack - Is WE the Enemy?" Wherever there's trouble - G.I. Jack is there, and he's not happy about it!

Sober Putty
Taken out of its bright red egg and repackaged in a plain-white cardboard carton in twenty-pound blocks, this material is useful for patching plumbing leaks, attaching posters to basement cinderblock walls, and filling in dents. Diluted with turpentine, it doubles as a floor-sweeping compound. Avoid prolonged contact with skin. Not approved for entertainment purposes.

Barbie's Shattered Dream House
Newly-single mom Barbie struggles to care for two children after Ken leaves her for a woman with nipples. Playset action features include buttons to cut off the electricity, repossess the Dream Car, spring leaks in the roof, and make rolling papers, hypodermic needles and condoms "magically" appear in Ken Junior's dresser drawer! Sympathetic messages from old friends Midge and P.J. arrive on the pretend answering machine, but they have problems of their own and are always "too busy" to stop by. Exclusive "Barbie's mother" doll visits but refuses to give her daughter any more money for booze.

reads since 10/17/2005