Monday, June 25, 2007

Sexy at Three?

I don’t think I am being nostalgic when I state that dolls today are not promoting the right kind of imaginative play. Yes, Barbie is ridiculous with her extra long legs and D cup breasts, but Bratz dolls put a whole new spin on sexualized toys. There is Barbie, and then there are Bratz Babyz with their glittering half-tops and pinned diapers. These are without a doubt the most bizarre dolls I have ever seen. It is almost funny the way they inexplicably combine infant accessories, like blankies and bottles, with sexuality. This is the world where girls play not with baby tricycles but Harleys, and where bottles hang around necks like “bling” on diamond chains. What kind of messed up “play” do these dolls encourage? There is even a Babyz Night Out package, full of fashion and beauty accessories. And their night out is not to grama’s house – no – these babies are going clubbing! This is a play world where babies wear thongs and have pouty, lip-lined mouths that Angelina would be envious of.

Isaac Larian, CEO of the company, Micro Games, that manufacture these dolls, said on Nightline that they “don't look trashy to me. I think trashy is in the eyes of the adults". Well then, the thing is Mr. Larian, you must be so blinded by the towering stacks of money that you can’t see the leather clad doll in high heels. To suggest that the “trash” is in our own degenerate minds is to ignore the effect culture plays in our development. We live in a sex-driven consumer society, and despite the CEO’s indignant stance that it is all in our heads, when a doll marketed to young children wears fishnets, it is obvious that sex is selling toys as well. And if one needs hard evidence, let’s look back at the popular dolls from previous generations. Raggedy Anne is positively homely compared to these new fashion dolls.

I find Bratz dolls offensive, not only for their trashy outfits and garish makeup but because of the way they are marketed to young girls. Bratz Kidz and Bratz Babyz are an attempt by the makers of Bratz Dolls to branch out into other markets, younger markets, markets that range from ages 2-5. And these dolls, on a subconscious level, are showing young girls, toddlers really, how to be sexy. Can’t we let little girls just be little for a while. All that will come soon enough. It is so sad to me that parents actually buy these dolls for their children. If parents didn’t buy them, then the market would fall out and production of these porn-tots would stop. As consumers, we have the power to change this, yet parents keep buying these tawdry toys for their young daughters.

I get really annoyed when mothers tell other mothers what to do, and take a self-righteous air. And yet in this case, as hypocritical as I am going to sound, I simply can’t help it. Parents who buy these toys seriously need a time-out! Even if you are not alarmed by their appearance, take a moment and think about what kind of imaginative play these dolls are promoting. They can wrap it up in any kind of friendship, fashion fun, girl-power bullshit they want, the truth is these dolls encourage girls to be consumer driven, beauty obsessed, sexually provocative and self-absorbed – basically, life values according to Paris Hilton. So unless we want our daughters to aspire to be nothing more than the next diva or starlet to grace the cover of Maxim, it is time to say “Enough already”.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wasting my time in Margaritaville, otherwise known as facebook

I signed up for facebook because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. People I care about were spending a lot of time on facebook and I kept getting requests to be their friend, although I thought I already was. I worried that they were spending too much time connecting over their computers and not enough time interacting in person. There is something to be said for the now outdated fashion of inviting someone into your home and talking face to face while sharing a glass of wine. It seems fewer people actually have the time or inclination to socialize in this outmoded, quaint style. There are blogs, chat rooms, forums, myspace and now facebook.

People are connecting and networking in new ways, and not all of them seem beneficial. I’m not interested in being poked, spanked, having sheep thrown at me, bitten by a zombie, given virtual cosmopolitans, bought or sold, rated by hotness, or any other immature time wasting debauchery. And then there are the quizzes: what kind of drunk are you, what personality disorder do you have, what colour is your heart, what kind of lover are you, how smart are you, how hot are you, what do men see in you, what 1950’s pin-up model are you, and the list goes on. The worst part of this is that it is your friends who are sending you these annoying requests, because if they took the quiz they have to invite 20 of their friends to install the application to get their results. Very sneaky indeed.

Despite these very real and annoying applications, I have found, much to my initial skepticism, that facebook is fun and even, at times, a great business tool. I even created my own Palimpsest Press facebook group, where I can create discussion threads, post upcoming events, email members about new titles and readings, add links and upload video and audio clips.

The problem is that, for me at least, facebook is problematically addictive. It is far too easy to log on, play some scrabble moves, look at updated profiles, check the status bars, and before I know it an hour or longer has passed and I have done nothing on my to-do list. Facebook promotes a laid-back, unproductive work environment. The trick is discipline, which clearly I lack. I refuse to install any more games on my account because I know I am too easily drawn into playing them and forgetting about what needs to be done. Of course, there is no one to blame for this waste of time except myself. If it weren’t facebook, then it would be something else. I am an accomplished procrastinator.

Wastin’ away in facebook again,
Makin’ my next scrabble assault.
Some people claim that there’s a web site to blame,
But I know it’s my own damn fault.

Still, my main bone of contention with facebook remains. Although meant to connect us, it is really creating a culture of computer savvy people with no real social interaction. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can give an example of this in my own life. My husband and I both have offices in our basement. I keep my door open so we can talk to each other, being only 10 feet or so apart. One evening, we were both on facebook, responding to emails, writing on people’s walls, and playing scrabble. We each remained in our own little internet bubble, when I turned my head to face him and said, “hey, would you hurry up and make your move, I have my next word ready.” I suddenly realized that we were playing scrabble with each other for the past hour and this was the first time either of us had actually looked at or talked to the other person. My husband went out and bought the Scrabble board game that week.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I’m trying to meditate on Buddha’s principle of non-attachment, but just keep thinking about how cool my new hybrid car is

When it comes to hybrid cars, there are many noble reasons to incur the initial extra cost. The most virtuous being that it is a non-polluting environmentally responsible choice. When our Saturn hybrid stops at a red light, the engine automatically turns off and then restarts when the car shifts gear. As a result, it produces fewer emissions, idles less and gives better mileage.

There are also less than noble reasons to buy a hybrid:

1. Although the out-of-pocket expense is higher, fuel economy, lower insurance rates, and tax incentives will save me money in the long run.

2. Some stores like IKEA are putting green parking spots near the entrance that can only be used with hybrid cars, which means I don’t have to park at the back of the lot when it is raining.

3. I find it entertaining to watch confused pedestrians when I am stopped at a red light or stop sign. The car makes no noise and appears not to be running, and they hesitate before walking out in front of me, sure to catch my eye, as if to say “are you going or not?”

4. I enjoy watching the eco light on the dashboard light up, and will change my speed accordingly just to see it come on. A small pleasure, but a pleasure none-the-less.

5. The Canadian government is thinking about making an Eco-license plate for hybrids that is coloured green, which would give the owner incentives like passing in the car-pool lane with only one driver.

There is one small problem though. The Unites States government is thinking of making a mandatory license plate for all convicted pedophiles. The colour they chose — green. I would not want to go over the border with a green plate! I am imagining us stopping at a restaurant for breakfast. Some thugs will notice the license plate, walk in and see my dark-haired husband eating blueberry waffles with our very cute, blonde daughter. While I am in the bathroom drying my hands, they’ll drag him out to the parking lot and beat the crap out of him.

A downside to a hybrid car, for sure.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Waking Dreams

As a child I was somewhat reclusive, daydreamed much of the time, talked to trees, insects, animals. I had many conversations with my pet goldfish until its untimely demise down the washtub drainpipe. My daydreams led to many accidents, like walking into things or riding my bike into parked cars. I even fell asleep in a snow bank once, because I was so caught up in my fantasy world. My parents had been looking for me for hours and finally found me lying perfectly still amongst all that whiteness.

This is still a problem, or so I am told. I have been accused many times of being too idealistic, naive, enraptured by my own fantasies. I wonder what it means to be “too” of anything. Either one is or one is not, the degree of which hardly seems the point.

Reality is a hard place for me. I have always preferred the solitude of my own landscapes. The issue, as I see it, is that when one lives a life of dreams, the world becomes a frightening place. This cannot be helped, since in fact that is what it is. As a child I kept a garbage bag full of stuffed animal by the window in case of a fire. At night I had vivid nightmares. But during the day my waking dreams kept me grounded, not so much in reality but grounded as in feeling safe, solid, like I wouldn’t be blown away by the direction of the wind.

I worry about my daughter because she seems to have some of my neurosis, picks compulsively at little pieces of thread, fuzz or dirt. She dreams of dinosaurs roaming the night and wolves howling. She worries about me going away from her or someone taking her away. She worries about what happens to bees in the winter, and that we will run out of peanut butter and her sandwich will never taste the same again. She worries all the time. And still she is a happier child than I was, content most of the time. She loves to be with people and talks very well for her age, which only makes sense because she has barely stopped since her first word.

She is sweet, compassionate, and has an imagination that soars. I want her to experience the flight, like a kite released into an immense sky. But how do I ground her? Be her rope tethered to firm ground? I have never been the rock, always the thing in motion.

When she was just two years of age, I was pushing her in her baby swing when she began reaching out her arms.

“What are you doing?”

“I want to touch the sky mommy.”

Your arms are not big enough, child. Use your heart.