Did competition dash Barbie's holiday dreams?

Having raised three girls in the 80's, I've seen more than enough of Barbie and her ilk - and yes, I made rather merciless fun of her plastic, wholesome, non-anatomically correct beauty. But this bit still troubles me ... folks who watch this market carefully are seeing what I would consider to be some disturbing trends, despite the fact that this years downturn for Barbie was due mostly to competition from other dolls:

AG Edwards analyst Tim Conder thinks Barbie's problem goes beyond the challenge from Bratz. "No doubt Bratz have taken significant market share from Barbie in the last three to four years. But I think changing consumer trends could put Bratz in the same situation down the road."

According to Conder, the traditional toy business overall is in for turbulent times ahead as kids at an earlier age show a preference for gadgets like cellphones, iPods and videogames.

"Boys don't want to play with GI Joe and young girls are moving away from Barbie," he said.

Electronic toys, including animated dolls like the 'Amazing Amanda' mentioned in this article, do not require the child the use any imagination - in fact, they almost demand that the kid not imagine at all, by supplying nearly every kind of behavior available in their "target" toy. No need to pretend Amazing Amanda is hungry - she'll cry and tell you she's hungry!

Kids can still find workarounds for this kind of directed behavior today, but as these devices get more sophisticated, look out! "Play pretend" could become a quaint relic of a time long past.

Imagination is crucial to the later development of the creative, artistic impulses - deny or repress a child's imagination and, well, who knows? This is something that is a new thing: no culture heretofore has ever tried to do this en masse, to boys and girls, rich and poor, not even wild-eyed fundamentalist religious zealots. And I'm not sure, given the pace with which our society moves and technology advances, that there's anything we could do about it, even were we to decide we wanted to.

If Mattel was hoping that Princess Barbie and Fairytopia Barbie -- its two big doll initiatives for 2005 -- would light a fire under sagging Barbie sales over the holidays, the toymaker may be in for another rude awakening.

(link) [CNN.com]

00:00 /Technology | 0 comments | permanent link

US government warns it's running out of cash

Hmmm, do you think things have really changed with this "conservative" regime? Remember Gingrich in 1994?

Gingrich had a different spin on the standoff. "We were elected to get rid of all the phony promises and the phony excuses and to be honest with the American people and say to them, 'You want to balance the budget? You want to save your children and grandchildren, you want to have lowered interest rates, you want to have lower taxes?' We can do it. It is not easy. It takes hard decisions. But we have to have a dialog among ourselves and it has to be honest."

When Newt made the above statement the national debt stood at less than $5 trillion. If Bush gets his way, the debt will stand at nearly double that by the end of 2006.

I wonder what conservative Republicans are conserving here? It's certainly not our tax dollars...

AFP - Treasury Secretary John Snow has warned that unless Congress raises the national debt limit, the US government will run out of cash to finance its daily work in two months.

(link) [Yahoo! News: Top Stories]

00:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

National Archives' Digital Woes

As the proud owner of a pile of vinyl LP's, a rack of laser disc's and a few 5.25" floppys formatted to the Commodore 1541 drive, I can appreciate the problem here ...

Carl Bialik from the WSJ writes "The National Archives, entrusted to preserve America's official history, will have to handle roughly 100 million emails from the Bush White House, up from 32 million during the Clinton years, according to the Wall Street Journal. 'The rapid adoption of electronic communications technology in the last decade has created a major crisis for the Archives,' the Journal reports. 'For one thing, the amount of data to be preserved has exploded in recent years, thanks to the proliferation of high-tech tools such as personal computers and wireless email devices such as BlackBerries. At the same time, technology is becoming obsolete so fast that electronic documents created today may not be legible on tomorrow's devices, the equivalent of trying to play an eight-track tape on an iPod.' The director of the Electronic Records Archives Program tells the Journal, 'We don't want to turn into a Cyber-Williamsburg, a place that keeps old technologies alive.'"

(link) [Slashdot]

00:00 /Technology | 1 comment | permanent link