The View From 32


MAY 8, 2007    More below: ID PHOTO

Interactive toys

Person holding a NeedieFrom Metropolis magazine online, an article about interactive toys: not just toys that respond to what kids do to them, but toys that respond to each other. I don't know about you, but toys like Needies that sense when other toys are getting attention and then cry out for attention of their own aren't a step in the right direction. Why oh why would you buy toys that make you feel guilty about how much time you're spending with's bad enough that your own kids do this to you.

According to their website, "Needies are...dolls inspired by codependent, high-maintenance relationships." I guess this is someone's idea of irony, but I'm not going to spend money on toys that add to my stress level.

It may be a good sign that you can't actually buy Needies...yet. If we're lucky, the creators—several bright recent grads of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program—won't find the backers they need to bring the product to market.

My Beating Heart pillow/toy"Like yoga in a pillow"

On the other hand, the Metropolis article also mentions My Beating Heart, a pillow-type toy(?) that creates a physical throbbing described as "similar to holding a purring kitty-cat." It has a heartbeat rhythm that changes over time, "replicating the heartbeat of a human in a meditative state."

Still, other than no vet bills to pay or allergy medicine to buy, are we really better off trading a kitty-cat for a pillow stuffed with electronics?

Webkinz screen shot showing room and other thingsA variation on the interactive toy theme is a blatently consumer-centric product called Webkinz.

You buy a plush toy with a "secret code" to use on the Webkinz site. And as soon as you enter you're urged to start buying stuff. You get 2000 KinzCash to buy furniture, clothes and food for your pet.

And let me guess: when you buy stuff for your pet, the "Happy" meter goes up. The lesson to your children? Buy stuff—that's how to make others happy.

And maybe, if that doesn't make you happy, buy something else, like a My Beating Heart so you can feel some love.

You know, on one level I'm really intrigued by the thought behind these toys, and I'm impressed by the technical aspects of what they can do. But on a human level they seem designed to further disconnect us from each other, our bodies, and the world of people and animals we live in. We don't need more of that.


Would you let this man into your country?

Al passport photoIn preparation for a trip this summer to St. Petersburg, Russia, we needed to get passport/visa photos. For $7.99 we had a teenage clerk at Walgreens use a cheap digital camera to snap a couple of pictures.

With apologies to my professional photographer friends, it was quick and the price was right. The quality, maybe not so good.

For whatever reason, this is probably the only smiling photo I've ever had on an ID of any sort. I've always been acutely aware of having front teeth with big gaps between them, so I learned to keep my mouth shut so you couldn't see them in a photo. Despite my shaggy hair and general untidyness, I think I look less like a convict than usual in this picture. I may just add it to my Bio page.