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Slouching Torward Toyland

Gift alternatives for today's younger set


Published December 4, 2002 at 5:00 a.m.

Remember the terrorist attacks? They were all over the news, remember? We were numb for a while, and then we vowed to change our priorities once and for all and focus on what's truly important in life.

But that was before we discovered deep-fried Twinkies and "American Idol" and the "Anna Nicole Show," and we were totally going to vote in that midterm election but by then we were caught up in the Winona trial. Now it's more than a year since the World Changed Forever and we're planted in the same couch groove, except it's wider and deeper, more like a couch canyon, but if we don't buy and fry the Twinkies, the terrorists win, right?

So we learn a valuable lesson: Priorities are hard to change. That's probably why they became priorities in the first place.

Now it's the holiday season. That means the kids will want toys. Doesn't matter that our 401(k) is gutted, we're one swiped stapler from being canned, and we're gearing up for yet another freakin' war; innocent hearts won't be denied at this magical time of year. Children will scramble down the stairs early Christmas morn hoping to find the must-have toy of the season.

Well, here's a suggestion for the youngsters: Blow it out your tiny butts. You're not the boss of us.

Maybe we can't change our own priorities, but we can damn sure reshape our offspring. Kids aren't hardwired for priorities yet. Act now and we can steer them down a more spiritual path, one not dominated by fads, trends and materialistic lust. They'll thank us for our selfless parental courage later. Or they'll gobble Ritalin like Skittles while sobbing uncontrollably to their therapists. Either way, we save some coin this Christmas.

Let's look at a few of the hot toys this holiday season and some possible less expensive options.

Rapunzel Barbie:

How utterly groundbreaking! It's Barbie but with slightly different hair. The geniuses at Mattel have done it again! Forget it. This plastic princess has skanked her way into our wallets too many times. Go to Goodwill, score a cast-off Barbie, then bobby-pin that hair wad from the shower drain to her head. Everybody wins.

LEGO Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Playset:

With this 591-piece set, kids can build the Hogwarts dungeon. One drawback: The sonofa-bitch retails for $69.99! But there are other popular movies besides Harry Potter. For a fraction of the cost, your kids can have "Eminem and the Trailer of 8 Mile Playset." Containing 26,456 scraps of razor-sharp sheet metal, your child can build a life-size replica of the doublewide where Eminem and his slutty mom lived, and unlock the wonders of a dead-end white-trash existence. Keep plenty of Bactine and bandages on hand during assembly.

Chicken Dance Elmo:

Obviously, Elmo has fallen hard from the heights of his "Tickle Me" fame. Now his behavior, like a brain-damaged uncle at a wedding reception, indicates he suffers from a serious substance-abuse problem. Sad. If you're looking to deliver a message on the evils of addiction, consider Urine Soaked Nolte instead.

Paint-Your-Own Chair:

I swear. From Curiosity Kits, retailing for $35 and recommended for ages 6 and up. This is hot on the heels of their wildly successful "Unclog-Your-Own Toilet" and "Refinish-Your-Own Hardwood Floors." No need to waste money on a licensed contractor when you've got toddlers and power tools.

Retro Trends:

Care Bears are back. There's also a 25th anniversary edition of Trivial Pursuit and special 50th anniversary Matchbox cars. But if you're going old-school, go all the way. Give your kids a stick. Kids love sticks. And whether it's poking a corpse they find near the river or jabbing through the bars at zoo animals, nothing does the job like a stick.

Spiderman Action Figure:

The wall-crawler's a flash in the pan. Go for something with proven longevity, like a Larry King Action Figure. He comes with pontificating power and detachable suspenders. Pull his string and he speaks on a wide range of subjects, with only the earliest signs of dementia evident: "It's Rip Taylor's world, we just sweep up the confetti in it. If you're making a list of all-time greatest puddings, tapioca better be at or near the top. If you ever have to flag down a cab naked, wait until your erection subsides. You look less desperate that way. Know who can take a punch? Goldie Hawn. Gnat Balls, Wisconsin, you're on the air!

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