a darker side of play….

“Grown ups are complicated creatures,
full of quirks and secrets.”

― Roald Dahl

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(Gaylord the walking dog circa 1960)

No, this isn’t a tale about child predation or anything as awful or evil as that.

No…. this is actually a story about the naiveté that we use to find in our
favorite childhood toys…
and to what those once happy and comforting memories may be sadly morphing into
during these odd days of the 21st century….

Candice Bergen has often lamented that when she was growing up she was actually
jealous of Charlie McCarthy.
Charlie was the ventriloquist doll, aka “dummy” that her Dad, Edger Bergen,
used during his early days of Vaudeville…
moving to radio and eventually television.
Candice was often introduced to audiences as Charlie’s little sister.

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(Charlie and Edgar 1938)

Yet there has always been something rather creepy about a ventriloquist’s doll.
Hollywood cemented that notion deep within our psyches with the creation of those
infamous B rated horror flicks featuring the puppets dating back as early as the 1960’s.
Even later with children’s shows such as Goosebumps in the early 1990s,
our need to be creeped out was capitalized on with the notion of a puppet having a mind,
albeit evil, all to itself.

When I was a little girl I had a Chatty Cathy doll.
Not a ventriloquist’s doll, but one that “spoke” none the less.
I don’t really remember her but my Dad tells me about it all the time.
She was a doll who, when a string was pulled, would speak.
An early prototype to a conversing playmate.

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She was large for being a doll and had a complete ensemble of clothes that she could change into
with the aid of her “playmate”…aka me.

Personally I preferred Gaylord.
I actually remember Gaylord…although I am told I referred to him as gayhog….
He was a dog, complete with plastic bone that would stick to his magnetic nose.
Gaylord could actually walk when pulled on a leash.
My love for Gaylord was probably because we didn’t have a dog…

So yesterday afternoon as I was reading the latest headline offering from the BBC, imagine
my alarm over the words “German parents told to destroy “spy” dolls.”

Naturally I opted to read further…

It seems that the latest and greatest “talking” doll Cayla,
which somehow uses the internet in order to “talk,” can be hacked…
Allowing for the doll’s conversing with, say her real-life playmate,
to be anything but innocent or naive.
There could be all sorts of responses or commands that would be more sinister and twisted
in nature.

I have provided the link to the story…
be sure to click on the brief video clip as that it most telling

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39002142

I suppose we are sadly learning that there is no bastion of innocence remaining….
Which I suppose leads us to just another reminder that we can’t ever be too careful
as to who or what we listen to…

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones.
For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

Technology, Bah Humbug!!

“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.”
― Pablo Picasso

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”
― Karl Marx

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Oh dear Lord, what is happening to me when I find myself thinking a quote by Karl Marx makes sense?!
Or even one from Pablo Picasso?
I know what you’re thinking. You figured all art teachers would like Picasso.
Well I’m not a fan of the bigger than life ego which Picasso could lay claim to. Nor am I a huge fan of cubism but I’d be digressing if I went off on that tangent.

How many times today have I bemoaned that “I hate technology”?
Was it the time I hung up my cell phone and put it away while it inadvertently “face timed” my son for about the 5th time?
Who by the way thinks face time is the greatest thing.
Who thinks that?!
It’s bad enough that I try looking presentable when I’m out in public, this whole face time business does not cast one in the best of light. You should have seen my hair on that screen!!

Or was it when I made the trip to Staples to find a new set of cordless phones for the house?
I really didn’t think the batch we had was all that old but for some reason there has been some crazy message on the phone claiming we had a “New Voice Message” complete with a blinking amber light that won’t go away.

I have an answering machine.
Why in the heck would my phone keep telling me that there’s some sort of new voice mail out there somewhere?
I tried pushing the buttons.
It promoted me to enter the access code.
Access code?!
What access code?
I push more buttons.
Some sort of busy sound comes up but the light is still blinking and the message is still listed.

I find the manual.
“Hold down the # button”
Okay, holding it down.
“Beep”
Oh thank God—no blinking light, no message.
The phone rings.
After hanging up, the message mysteriously appears again plus the phone is blinking again.
WHAT?!

My husband also notices the blinking light.
You know it’s big if a husband notices something blinking.
He tells me we must need new phones because a yellow light keeps blinking.
Really? I ask rather incredulously, “ya think?!”
But then he tells me, “no, don’t get new phones, I think the blinking light keeps the cat off the bed at night”
“What?!”
“Yeah, I think when she comes in the bedroom at night to jump on the bed, which always wakes me up, the light blinking by the bed, scares her off. . .”
I just shake my head at him as I walk out of the room.

So off I go to Staples in order to buy a new set of cordless phones.
And that’s another issue.
So many people today no longer have “land lines”
Land lines.
What is up with that?
Yes I have a cell phone, but if you want to have a decent conversation with someone that does not break up, cut off or sound as if you’re in a can. . .then a “real” phone is the only solution.
Hence my desire to keep a “real” phone in the house.
And I’m sorry but there’s just something odd about telling a person via this texting business that WYWH
I think saying “wish you were here” sounds so much nicer coming from a voice rather than a bunch of letters popping up on a screen don’t you?
How personal, how touching, how emotional can a letter be versers the tenderness of a voice?!
But then I would need to digress onto the tangent about this generation’s lack of the ability to communicate face to face—God forbid!
I mean really!

As I stand alone on the phone aisle at Staples, perusing the batch of cordless phones available, I pick out a Panasonic set— thinking the existing batch at home, which blink, must be a different brand. Sadly once home I see I’ve bought the same brand.
Hummm.
Surely these won’t blink.
Do you know how irritating it is to roll over in the middle of the night only to wake to a strobe light going off in the dark?. . .blink, blink, blink.
I am the type of person who prefers darkness when it comes to sleeping, not blinking lights.

Finally, once home, I unpack the box with all the new little cordless phones. I open the backs, putting in the batteries. I next go unplug all the current blinking phones–yes all 4 cordless phones blink.
I plug up all the new phones.
I proceed to conduct the initial test.
I call the house from my cell phone.
Nothing.
What?!
I pick up the new phone. Despite not being fully charged it claims that it’s working.
Hummm.
I look at the box.
“Make certain you hear a click when plugging in the phone line cord into both the phone as well as the phone jack”
I check the connections.
Ahhhh, the wall outlet end wasn’t pushed in all the way.
Whew!

Oh, I need to record a message.
I hate hearing my voice.
Who knew I sounded like a high pitched squeaky rat?
A high pitched squeaky Southern rat at that.
Ok, test number 2

It rings, sounding a bit odd, almost like a ring a cling—not a ring a ring.
Oh well, new phone—new sound. I can live with that.
Suddenly—again. . .WHAT?
Message: New Voice Mail
AGGGGHHHHHH.
I grab the manual. . .again.
It explains that one’s service provider must supply an access code.
Are you freaking kidding me?! I’ve got to call AT&T?
Trust me, the thought of being on hold for hours, only to speak with someone in India, is not how I wish to spend my afternoon.

A lady answers.
She can’t help me as it appears as if we are actually hooked up through UVerse.
What the heck? When did they become two separate entities? Gees!!
She transfers me to India.
I explain to the young lady, with the very heavy accent named Lisa, what my problem is and she reassures me that she understands and will be happy to help me.

She tells me I need an access code.
Ya think?
I explain that I don’t have an access code.
She then tells me that she’ll set me up with one.
I explain that I have an answering machine already asking why I need AT&T or UVerse, or whomever, providing me with a voice mail system when my phone has an answering machine.
She puts me on hold.
After a couple of minutes she comes back.
“Julie do you still see the message?”
Well it’s a bit difficult to see the message as I’m on the phone”
“uh”
“How ’bout I hang up the cordless phone picking up the wall mount phone?”
“Oh good idea, Julie”

I do what I can.

Sure enough—I pick up the wall mount receiver, putting down the cordless.
Message: New Voice Message.
“May I put you on hold again Julie?”
What am I going to say, No?
I wait again for Lisa to work whatever magic she does behind the scenes.
“Is it still there Julie?”
“Yes, but I have an idea. How about we hang up, so that when the phones’ not in use, I can check the screen?”
“Oh very good idea Julie, I will call you back in 2 minutes”

Low n behold. No message!!!
Hallelujah!!!!
The phone rings.
“hello Lisa”
“Hello Julie, I must tell you that this call may be recorded”
“Yes, Lisa, I know”
“Good news, there is no message”
“Oh Julie, I am so glad. Is there anything else that I can do for you?
“No Lisa, but I greatly appreciate your help.”

And so went my entire afternoon but at least I now have 4 new phones that do not blink nor post erroneous messages that simply never go away.

I’m certain that those of you who are reading this, who are of a certain youthful age, are flippantly thinking how old fashioned I am. You marvel over technology as it is all you have ever known. My son, the mid twenty somethings, are the last group who were not “babysat” by things like iPads. His world’s gadget was the Gameboy. My world’s gadget was the Barbie. Hummm

The technology gods can’t wait for my generation to die off.
Those of us who spend 10 minutes texting our children a mere “I love you” verses the clicky little ILY spit out in a nano second.
We enjoy hearing connected voices without the worry of data plans and over usage fees.
We enjoy voices verses letters.
We enjoy face to face conversations while being in the same room with other people verses being in a room full of people whose heads are cast downward, fingers and thumbs working feverishly while nary a sound is uttered.
We prefer real tangible books. The feel of paper, the weight and heft of a real volume.
We still enjoy the art of writing. Pen to paper. Not the click click of a key pad.
There are several boxes of classic vinyl LPs and 48s in the basement. . .
I miss them.

There’s just something about being “old school” and believe you me, I’m proud of it and still going strong. Now if I could just figure out how to use the remote to this new “smart” TV—what in the heck is a smart TV and why did we need one?!

“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation…tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.”
― Jean Arp