Belated holiday greetings to both of my fans! (Actually, this is just an excuse to post a picture of me striking a cheesy pose with my friend Milo. What do you think? Could this be my new author photo?)
Though Ernestine may not be getting a pony for Christmas, there’s a distinct possibility that she’ll find a pooping dog under the tree this year:
The only problem is that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported that a small magnet in Barbie’s pooper scooper could come loose and pose a choking hazard to small children, thus forcing Mattel to recall the doll, her dog, and his magnetic poop.
What’s especially amazing about the recall is that the CPSC estimated that about 683,000 of the play sets were in circulation at the time — which means that someone at Mattel gave the go-ahead on the pooping dog toy and had over half-million of them made. What’s even more amazing is that the CPSC reports three incidents of the magnet coming loose — which means that three people actually bought Barbie’s fake pooping dog.*
The good news, however, is that the problem has since been rectified. According to the CPSC, the recall only involves “Barbie and Tanner™ play sets — model numbers J9472 and J9560. The toys include a ‘scooper’ accessory with a magnetic end. Recalled scoopers have a visible, silver colored, disc-shaped magnet on the end of the scooper.” Fortunately, the report goes on to explain that “Scoopers with a white material covering the magnet and products manufactured after January 31, 2007 are not recalled.”
One additional thing that’s worth noting, however, is that the CPSC has not said a word about the psychological damage this toy might cause as a result of glamorizing poop scooping. Needless to say, we’ve all heard countless experts tell us that Barbie’s unrealistic proportions have a tendency to give young children odd ideas about what women’s bodies should look like — thus leading to everything from eating disorders to plastic surgery fetishes.
Along similar lines, it’s not hard to imagine a world in the not too distant future where kids everywhere start to stake out dog parks for a chance to scoop some strange dog’s poop. Why? Because they saw Barbie doing it. Is this future we want for America? More to the point, is this the future we want for our kids? I, for one, don’t think so. But I don’t have any better ideas for Ernestine’s Christmas gift, so it’ll just have to do.
* Yes, this post is just an excuse for me to write “poop” a lot.
No discussion of Santa Claus would be complete without some mention of Coca Cola. I’ve heard more than once that Coca Cola invented the contemporary image of Santa Claus as part of a holiday-themed ad campaign. Snopes.com, however, notes that while Coca Cola did start using Santa Claus in their ads in the 1930s, images of what we now think of as the “traditional” jolly old elf were appearing on magazine covers and in advertisements throughout the first few decades of the twentieth century.
Yet while Coca Cola may not have “invented” Santa Claus, I wouldn’t be surprised if they helped to proliferate his image. What’s more, with the kind of corporate backing that a company like Coca Cola could provide, it isn’t surprising that the concept of Santa Claus eventually helped to turn Christmas into the commercial bonanza that it is today.
To sum up, though I’ve probably left a lot of the “ingredients” that have fed into our contemporary conception of Santa Claus out of this discussion, a few of the major ones are illustrated below. Saint Nicholas gave us his name. Krampus gave us the chimney. Odin gave us a fondness for winking and an odd predilection for associating footwear with the holidays, Martin Luther reminded us to keep the Christ in Christmas and thereby unwittingly gave us Chris Kringle, and Coca Cola helped turn Santa Claus into an agent of commercialism.
Personally, I’m rooting for Krampus to make a comeback.