Category Archives: toys

flight test

pulling some strings

Emily of Wheels on the Bus sent out an unusual plea, having recently gone to see Puppetolio, an LA-area puppet theater that is closing its doors this weekend unless they manage to…um…pull a few strings:

If you know anyone who lives in L.A., anyone in the media, anyone who loves puppets, anyone who reads blogs, anyone who cares about the arts, then you know someone who will find this of interest and might be able to help.

I’m not around L.A., but I do care about the arts, and children’s entertainment, and I hate to see such a time-honored tradition dying out. So, if you can, go see what Emily has to say. And if you can, pull a few strings to help out the puppeteer in his plight.

But first, I’m putting on ashow of my own with this ThThTh¹ list o’ puppets.

  • Punch and Judy: traditional English puppet theatre, typically performed in a booth-type stage.
  • Pinocchio: a famous wooden puppet of fiction and film who comes to life.
  • punch-bw-puppet

  • Muppets: a range of mostly cloth and plush puppets, originally created by Jim Henson.
  • puppet: an expression for a person or entity whose actions are covertly dictated by some other person or entity. Political figures are sometimes disparagingly called puppets.
  • the_godfather

  • The Godfather: The poster for the 1972 movie shows a hand holding the string controls for a marionette, alluding to the “puppet master” status of a mafia boss
  • “The Lonely Goatherd”: A scene from The Sound of Music (1965) in which an elaborate puppet show is performed
  • “Puppet Man”: A song performed (separately http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=12771 ) in the early 1970s by The 5th Dimension Tom Jones. Here’s the Tom Jones version:

    Baby, Baby, I’m your sweet pet
    I’m just your personal marionette
    Wind me up and let me go
    Don’t you know I’m a one man show?
    Raise your finger and I’ll perform
    I’ll crack a jack till’ the crack a dawn
    If you wanna see me do my thing, baby pull my string

  • “Puppets”: a song by Depeche Mode from their first album, Speak and Spell. (YouTube vid)

    And I don’t think you understand
    What I’m trying to say
    I’ll be your operator baby
    I’m in control

  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: What can I say? They are sock puppets. Who sing in falsetto voices. With Scottish accents. Watch their latest video, “Back in E.D.I.N. BRAW“:
  • Lamb Chop: a sheep sock puppet operated by comedian Shari Lewis.
  • Bob from the TV show Soap.
    A ventriloquist’s dummy operated by Chuck, but a character in his own right. (Watch a scene with Bob here)
  • Mr. Hat: Mr. Garrison’s puppet from the show South Park
  • The Puppet Show: an episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer involving a ventriloquist’s dummy.
  • Puppetmaster (1989) A horror movie with puppets that come to life.
  • Being John Malkovich (1999) John Cusack plays a puppeteer, and puppeteering features prominently in the plot. The movie also boasts a gigantic Emily Dickinson marionette.

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¹ It’s been a while since I put up my last Themed Things Thursday² post. (Has it really not been since April? Craziness. I’ve drafted probably a good dozen or so lists, but haven’t quite gotten any together and ready to post.)

² Yes, I know it’s Friday. Don’t quibble with me. I’m tired.

Image sources: Godfather poster, Punch puppet, Pinnochio from Ginn and Company The Common School Catalogue (Boston: Ginn & Company Publishers, 1906) 40 via etc and puppet show from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (New York: Harper and Brothers Publshers, 1871) XLII:831 via etc.

The Princess and the Bag of Tools

One of the presents Phoebe got for her birthday, when she turned three back in February, was a “Pretty Princess FeltTales” felt board set. It’s actually quite a cool toy, consisting of a felt-covered board with some background scenery, and a bunch of smaller felt cut-out pieces. This particular set has three girls and separate clothing (a bit like paper dolls), a horse and carriage, a frog, a castle, and some other assorted princessy accessories:

The Pretty Princess FeltTales set, as shown on the company website.

The Pretty Princess FeltTales set, as shown on the company website.

Here’s how the website describes how a kid might play with the set:

“Pretty Princess” lets you get ready for a night at the castle. Dress your princess in her favorite ball gown, and add a cloak as the evening approaches. Gather her handmaidens and travel by carriage. Make a wish and kiss the frog, and perhaps….

Here’s how Phoebe set up the board.

Phoebe's version: The mechanic get her bag of tools to fix the car after the accident.

Phoebe's version: The mechanic gets her bag of tools to fix the car after the accident.

A: So what’s going on here, Phoebe?
P: Well that’s the bag of tools.
A: Yeah? Now why do they need the tools?
P: Because that’s an accident.
A: Yeah.
P: It’s a car
A: Okay. And who’s got the tools?
P: That’s the mechanic, though.

Damn, I love my little girl.

sock it to me

I just can’t get enough of those socks. I figure you can’t either. So, I’ve rifled through my sock drawer to share with you this sock-themed ThThTh list.

  • knock your socks off: an idiom meaning “impress” or “surprise in a good way,” as in The excitement of this sock list will knock your socks off.
  • put a sock in it: “be quiet.” (Differs somewhat from “put it in a sock.”
  • bobby-soxer: a 1940s term for a teenage girl, especially fans of Sinatra
  • The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947): a movie with Cary Grant and a teenaged Shirley Temple.
  • sock hop: a dance popular in the US in the 1950s in which participants took off their shoes and danced in their socks
  • stocking_23

  • Christmas stockings: socks hung by the fireplace as part of a Christmas tradition. They are then filled with eggs by the Easter Bunny. (Do I have that right?)
  • Fox in Socks: A Dr. Seuss book (featuring a fox wearing socks) filled with particularly tricky tonguetwisters:

    New socks.
    Two socks.
    Whose socks?
    Sue’s socks.
    Who sews whose socks?
    Sue sews Sue’s socks.
    Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir?
    You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir.

  • foxinsocksbookcoverpippi.jpg

  • Pippi Longstocking: A character from a series of children’s books by Astrid Lindgenwho wore socks that were not only long (long stockings) but noteworthy for being mismatched
  • Diddle Diddle Dumpling: a Mother Goose rhyme featuring (at least in some versions) stockings:

    Diddle diddle dumpling
    My son John
    Went to bed with his stockings on
    One shoe off and one shoe on.

  • bluestocking: a term for an “educated, intellectual woman” used commonly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also Blue Stockings Society.
  • redsox

  • Red Sox: a baseball team based in Boston, MA
  • White Sox: a baseball team based in Chicago, IL
  • Chartreuse Sox: a baseball team based in my imagination
  • threesockmonkeys

  • sock monkeys: stuffed toys traditionally made from socks. (Perhaps less traditional is the sock monkey dress.)
  • sock puppets: hand puppets made out of socks.
  • sock puppet: a dummy internet account
  • The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theater: a sock puppet duo of YouTube fame

  • The Bureau of Missing Socks: “the first organization solely devoted to solving the question of what happens to missing single socks. It explores all aspects of the phenomena including the occult, conspiracy theories, and extraterrestrial.”

tiny_sockstiny_sockstiny_sockstiny_sockstiny_sockstiny_sockstiny_socks

The Castle of the Pink Dragon

We’ve headed down to the in-laws for Thanksgiving. We drove down last night, after a crazy-busy hectic day. We arrived around midnight, and Phoebe was up well past 1:00. She was so excited to be down at the grandparents, though, that she woke up around 7:00. And with her new crib-free status, she was up and out of bed and in our room by 7:30. I was completely wiped out. Phoebe, on the other hand, was ready to play.

One of the perks of visiting Grammy and Grandpa’s house is that she gets to play with the castle. The castle is a Fisher Price Little People toy set that John played with when he was little. Some of the pieces are a little worse for wear (the poor horses have each lost a hoof or two), but it still makes for some great playing.

And because by it’s now after 11:00, and I have a list to prepare for tomorrow, I’ll leave you with these pictures.

castle_a

castle_b

castle_c

castle_d

castle_e

castle_f

castle_g

castle_h1

castle_i

pink_dragon

bucket list

Late last year, a movie came out called Bucket List, which then inspired a bunch of people to write their own “bucket lists”. Somehow I missed all of it. However, having seen the movie poster hanging in a video store window a few days ago, I’ve had that title running through my head. Running through my head and collecting things in a little bucket, as it were. Things about buckets as it turns out. So I present to you a ThThTh list of buckets.

A Bucket List

  1. kick the bucket: an expression meaning “keel over”, “bite the dust”, or “buy the farm”.
  2. bucket list: a list of things one hopes to accomplish before one’s death. (As in before one kicks the bucket.) The term may have originated with the screenplay from the movie (below).
  3. Bucket List (2007): a movie directed by Rob Reiner and starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. About 2 men who write a bucket list and work on accomplishing the items on the list. Said to be a tear-jerker. You can watch the trailer (YouTube).
  4. “There’s a hole in my bucket”: a folksong, possibly with German origins.
  5. mercy buckets: an English distortion of the French merci beaucoup, meaning “thank you much.”
  6. a drop in the bucket: an expression meaning “an inconsequential amount in relation to a larger quantity”.
  7. sweat buckets: an expression meaning “perspire copiously”
  8. Mr. Bucket: a game/toy (by Milton Bradley) from the early 90s. The commercial, (which you can watch on YouTube, if you like) had lyrics which apparently raised a few eyebrows:

    I’m Mr. Bucket put your balls in my top.
    I’m Mr. Bucket, out of my mouth they will pop…

  9. Buckethead: a musician noteworthy for performing with a bucket on his head.
  10. bucket drummers: percussionists, typically street performers, who use upended buckets (usually plastic paint buckets) as drums. Buckets are often supplemented with pots, pans, and other improvised instruments. There’s a blog on bucket drummers. You can also find a bunch of short clips on YouTube of some very impressive bucket drummers, like these guys:


  11. lolrus: A pinniped, usually a walrus, featured in a lolcat-style image. The captions of these typically feature commentary about buckets, especially the loss of buckets and the seeking of buckets. (Or, in the language of lol, buckits or bukkets.) To explore lolruses and their buckets (and to see the original), i can has cheezburger has the tag “bucket” for your convenience.

    funny pictures

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The picture at the top of the page is Phoebe with her bucket. Well, it’s small for a bucket. Really more of a pail, by comparison. (I’m sorry. I had to say it.)

ribbit

Here it is, February 28th. What is typically the last day of February. However, this year, as I’m sure you are aware, is a leap year. So we get another day this month, making this year 366 days long.¹ Anyhow, this leaping business of leap year has inspired me to think about frogs.² And thus you get a froggy ThThTh list.
florida_tree_frog.jpgflorida_tree_frog.jpgflorida_tree_frog.jpgflorida_tree_frog.jpgflorida_tree_frog.jpg

A Few Frogs

  1. leap frog: A game you play by leaping over crouched people. (I can’t really describe it. Go see what Wikipedia says.)
  2. Frogger. A classic 80s arcade game. The goal is to get a frog to hop safely across a road and a river without getting squashed or dunked. You can play online.
  3. Kaeru: This Japanese word means both frog and return, leading to frog charms being carried for luck by travellers.
  4. The Frog Prince. A fairy tale about a princess prince-turned-frog-turned prince. It has some variations I’m less familiar with:

    Although in modern versions the transformation is invariably triggered by the princess kissing the frog, in the original Grimm version of the story, the frog’s spell was broken when the princess threw it against a wall in disgust.[1] In other early versions it was sufficient for the frog to spend the night on the princess’s pillow.

  5. The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, a book by Beatrix Potter. Mr. Fisher is a frog who goes fishing for his meal, but after some mishaps, opts to dine on grasshopper.
  6. Frog and Toad. Characters from the series of books (including Frog and Toad are Friends) by Arnold Lobel. They are a frog and a toad. Who are friends.
  7. crane_frog4.jpg     beatrix_potter_jeremy_fisher_cover.jpg     frog_and_toad.jpg

  8. Kermit the Frog. The beloved Muppet, created by Jim Henson. The orginal version was made from a discarded coat and ping pong balls.
  9. Michigan J. Frog. The singing frog from the classic Warner Brother’s cartoon.
  10. Keroppi Hasunoue. A Sanrio character. (It’s not actually clear to me what he is a character of, beyond toys and other merchandising.)
  11. kermit28.gif     mjfrog3.gif      keroppi.jpg

  12. Froggy, a character in various books by Jonathan London, such as Froggy Gets Dressed
  13. magnolia.jpg

  14. The frog scene from the movie Magnolia (1999). It rains frogs. Really big frogs. It gets messy.
  15. Frog Went A-Courting. An English folk song.
  16. Five Little Speckled Frogs. A children’s count-down song:

    Five little speckled frogs,
    Sitting on a hollow log,
    Eating some most delicious bugs,
    Yum, Yum.
    One 1 frog jumped in the pool,
    Where it was nice and cool,
    Now there are four 4 speckled frogs,
    Glub, glub.

  17. A frog in one’s throat: an expression describing the gurgling and croaking⁴ that people sometimes get when talking with phlegm in the throat.
  18. Crunchy Frog: a Monty Python sketch about a chocolate confection with a dead frog center.
    We use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest-quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose.

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¹ Has anyone else noticed that this is perhaps an unfortunate year to choose for the inaugural year of Blog 365, where people commit to blogging daily for the whole year? But I see they have a planned day off for tomorrow.

² Because they leap.

³ We recently got a different Froggy book for Phoebe from a Scholastic catalog, namely Froggy Eats Out, and were a bit dismayed by the message of this particular one. In it, Froggy behaves like a brat and embarrasses his parents so badly at a nice restaurant that they must leave. They then reward him by going out to a burger joint, like Froggy had originally wanted.

⁴ Or irregular phonation. Which sounds less frog-like than croaking and gurgling.

the Ikea Rat Launcher

40588_pe134275_s4.jpgFrom time to time, I have been known to do a product review. (Some of you may remember my review of the iPhone, and the followup discussion of the Apple iCup.) I’ve been wanting to share this product for a while, but thought it would be good to wait for the Year of the the Rat celebrations to kick in. So, here it is: a review and demo of the Ikea Rat Launcher.
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The Ikea Rat Launcher

This colorful and inexpensive device can launch an Ikea stuffed rat several feet up into the air, way up over a toddler’s head, resulting in a flying rat and a giggling toddler. (Individual results may vary.) Below are some images from our extensive testing of this product in late October of last year.

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For the full demonstration, you can watch this video.¹

This ingenious product also doubles as a storage device: rats can be collected and placed in the launcher for later launching. An attractive reptilian cover keeps the rats from escaping.
img_2206.jpg img_2210.jpg

Warning: this product is not recommended for toddler storage.

phoebe_in_launcher.jpg

While the Launcher appears large enough to accomodate a toddler, attempts at toddler storage may result in the following:²

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¹ Sorry it’s a bit long, at 2:42, but I was too amused by Phoebe’s belly laughter and backwards toddling to cut any of it out.

² This one’s only 15 seconds. You know you want to watch it.

grrrr

Bear with me. Or, bears with me. Well, not really with me. But on the list. Yes, Themed Things Thursday¹ is coming out of hibernation, as I come crawling out of my work-induced cave of fatigue and grumpitude. And what better way to come out of a cave than being pursued by a whole lot of bears?

Some Bears ²

  • Winnie-the-Pooh: Pooh has to top any list of bears in my book. The bear from the books by A. A. Milne. (I prefer not to think about the Disneyfied version.)
  • Grizzly Adams: A TVshow about a man and bear.
  • Gentle Ben: A lesser-known show about a boy and a bear.
  • Grizzly Man A movie about a man who decided to go and live with bears. Eventually, the bears tired of him. From what I understand, he met a…um…grizzly…end.
  • Yogi Bear: A cartoon about a bear, smarter than the average bear, so he says. Stole pic-a-nic baskets. Yogi Bear was always allegedly “in the ranger’s hair.” But I don’t believe he ever actually ate the ranger. (I watched this show as a kid, but I’m not sure I liked it. I feel like I felt some empathy for Boo-boo Bear, the side-kick.)
  • snowwhiterosered.png

  • Goldilocks and the 3 bears:
    The classic fairy tale of breaking and entering. While a family of bears is out for a walk while their porridge cools, a little girl heads into their house where she steals their food and breaks some furniture.
  • Bears are also prominent in several other fairy tales, like Snow White and Rose Red.
  • Bear Snores On: A kids’ book (by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman) about a bear who snoozes through a party in his cave, when various other animals sneak in to get out of the winter storm.
  • There are a whole bunch of other bear books for kids, several of which are berry-oriented, like Blueberries for Sal, Jamberry, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear.
  • bear hug: A hug characterized by a real squeezing of the arms, rather than just a symbolic arm-wrapping. As one might imagine it would be like if hugged by a bear. Though without the mauling.
  • B is for Basil, assaulted by bears:” A page from The Gashleycrumb Tinies, Edward Gorey’s alphabetic masterpiece.
  • Fozzie Bear: a muppet who likes to tell bad jokes. (Wocka, wocka, wocka.)
  • fuzzy wuzzy, a children’s rhyme:

    Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear
    Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair
    Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t very Fuzzy, was he.

  • Bears Discover Fire:” A Hugo Award-winning short story by Terry Bisson in which bears…discover fire.
  • Bears are fairly popular mascots for sporting teams, especially brown bears, or Bruins (cf. the Brown University Bruins, UCLA Bruins, the Boston Bruins, or the Chicago Bears. And cf. also “da Bears” sketch from SNL)
  • teddy bear: A popular type of stuffed animal, named for Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt
  • Gummy Bears: fruit-flavored, brightly-colored, gelatin-based candies shaped like little bears.
  • brown_bear_3.png

    ¹ Yes, I realize it is now no longer Thursday. But I ran out of time, and I’ve had this draft going for over a week.

    ² This list is about bears, not bears