Kids, you’re getting nothing. For real. Don’t look under the tree for the gifts with cards hand-written in Daddy’s illegible chicken scratch because there won’t be any. You’re getting diddly this year.
I am not punishing you. I am not saying that I don’t love you or that you don’t deserve all the happiness and Beyblades in the world. You do. You’re just not getting those Beyblades from me.
Want to know why? I’ll tell you why. Because this week, I read a heartbreaking story in a Queensland community paper where a poor kid said they wanted a Mars bar for Christmas. A Mars bar. Another kid wanted a pink drink bottle.
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It was only a matter of time before they found the teddy bear.
They were professionals, after all. As the other passengers on my flight to Warsaw filed past, a team of Belurussian customs officers methodically picked apart my luggage, pulling out cameras, phone, computer, hard drives, memory cards and (goddammit) Season 5 of The Wire. As they put each item aside, they offered it for inspection to a man in plainclothes – KGB.
Their faces lit up with satisfaction as they gingerly removed the teddy bear from my dirty laundry. It was about 15cm tall, wearing a handmade frock, attached to a black parachute and carrying a sign declaring “Teddy Bears Support Human Rights” in English and Belarussian. It was also a prize catch.
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If these walls could talk, what would they say? As they are plastered their speech would probably be slurred and we’d have difficulty understanding them. But why is that phrase limited to just the walls? Why can’t we imagine other objects having a voice? I do. Frequently.
Apart from being a damn satisfying word to vocalise, anthropomorphising is the act of giving a human personality to non-human things. Think Disney movies, like Fantasia and Beauty and the Beast. Now this may seem like fun, however, there is a down side to being perspicaciously personificatious - I very rarely throw anything away.
“Please don’t get rid of Steve,” I plead to my girlfriend “Steve is my favourite mug. He and I have shared so many coffees together.”
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Like every good feminist mother I said “no” when my five-year-old daughter demanded a Barbie. I said “no” and I said “no” and I said “no” again.
Then (like every other procreator who is a fatally flawed human rather than one of those superior, mechanised parental no-bots), I caved shortly after pester number googol.
“OK,” I said. “But just one. With brown hair. And the marginally thicker waist Mattel introduced after 1997. How about African American Boot Camp Barbie? Her functional khaki trousers and radically articulated limbs are on par with separatist lesbianism given the feet-bindingly narrow domain of the Barbie-verse, wouldn’t you say, Alice?”
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If you’re a parent, you may think the seasonal requirement to buy your children stocking-loads of plastic crap has finally come to an end.
“Phew,” you may be saying (or perhaps flatulating if you consumed one too many prune-stuffed ham fists over Chrimbo).
“At last it will be possible to enter a shopping centre without being pressured to purchase a googolplex of anatomically unsound dolls, micro vehicles and cyber pets.”
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Holding a foreign affairs portfolio in the Federal Government means you travel… a lot. And with a young family this carries with it certain domestic challenges.
So a social contract has developed between me and my family to resolve the situation. Be it out of compensation or guilt, provided I return bearing gifts then everything is OK.
My wife Rachel is the easiest piece of the puzzle. I pass through Duty Free often which simply means cosmetics. Her favourite is nail polish which lives in the refrigerator. After a year of travelling the inside door of the fridge now has a line-up of tomato sauce, milk and a bank of Chanel.
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The US Navy Seals who conducted the deadly raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound worked under dangerous conditions. Hazardous stealth helicoptering, firefights and the wrangling of a feisty military canine called Cairo were all involved.
One peril, however, loomed above all the others and remains oddly under-discussed. I speak, of course, of the treacherous tangle of children’s mess that covered the Abbottabad compound floors.
Plastic pistols, a doll’s house, a red pedal car… The graininess of the post-assassination footage and the laconic inclinations of the Pentagon means it’s difficult to put together a precise inventory. But, given the bevy of bin Laden children living at the compound, it’s no surprise the domestic booby traps were numerous.
His muscles are permanently flexed, his fashions impeccably zhooshed and his fringe swing puts Justin Bieber’s to shame.
He is Ken doll and he has just celebrated 50 years of hyper – yet exquisitely ambiguous – masculinity.
To mark such a momentous jubilee, this column will now tackle the big questions about Barbie’s tackle-less escort. Big questions such as:
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I’m devoting the post festive period to catching up on some light reading – specifically the fine print on the toys my four year old received for Christmas.
The back of her model butterfly painting kit is particularly strange and hallucinogenic.
“Colorized Scalewing of Flutter is a new product congregated with toy and DIY together, using your both hands to portray and assembled beautiful colorized scalewing,” it reads. “[S]et free your polychrome dream in the play.”
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You know the scene. We’ve all been there, checking out the shelves of goodies in Toys ‘R’ Us, searching for the perfect gift for our kids, nephews, nieces or grandchildren.
Suddenly a child runs past, squealing in delight after spotting ‘the toy’. The very same they’ve been diligently saving up their pocket money to buy. Everyone else has one. And now, finally, it’s their turn.
As they thrust the box into the air like the captain of a championship-winning football team, the parent in tow reluctantly takes it from them, skipping the name and any other pointless details as their gaze heads straight for the price tag.
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Transformers: The Movie. Year: 1986. Spoiler alert: Optimus Prime dies
Any young boy who saw the original animated movie version of the Transformers will tell you that it was one of the most harrowing, exhilarating and ultimately traumatic experience of his life. In terms of emotional impact it rates somewhere between losing your virginity and finding out you’re adopted.
Of course I saw the film when I was 11, some 20 years before I lost my virginity, but it resonates with me even today. I went and saw it at the Belgrave cinema east of Melbourne with my best friend at the time Mark Evans. We were best friends for almost all of Grade Six because we both liked cars and that was enough back then.
When I got to the cinema I was shocked to discover my cousin Dan was there. Dan was 18 months younger than me and therefore to be avoided at all costs. When you are at that age your coolness redoubles every month and younger relatives are a millstone of shame. The true wonder was that I had convinced Mark Evans I was cool in the first place, and that running in circles in an above ground pool while pretending to be a superhero called Fireboy was what all the kids were doing these days.
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