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Drabblecast 088 - The Toys of Peace

Posted: Wed Nov 05, 2008 10:33 pm
by Kevin Anderson
Drabblecast 88

The Toys of Peace
by Saki

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Harvey retreated to the library and spent some thirty or fourty minutes in wondering whether it would be possible to compile a history, for us in elementary schools, in which there should be no prominent mentions of battles, massacres, murderous intrigues, and violent deaths...

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Saki (H.H. Munro) | The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:55 am
by Mr. Tweedy
Norm... That was genius. I mean, what else can you say about that episode? How can you even come up with such nuggets of brilliance on a weekly basis? Your mind is a hamster cage and Sooty's gettin' it on.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:42 am
by LajesticVantrashellofLob
The story moved far too slowly for me - I think it would have worked better as a story grenade. The section where Harvey pulled out the toys and spoke about "hedge-clipping" was hilarious, but the story was very predictable both before and after that. The last few sentences flat-out sucked. "We've gotten to them too late." is such a huge cop out that I can't even describe it. Saki's stories are usually like this for me - a semi-interesting premise that never really goes anywhere, although this particular story was more amusing than the others have been.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 3:55 pm
by strawman
LajesticVantrashellofLob wrote:The story moved far too slowly for me - I think it would have worked better as a story grenade. The section where Harvey pulled out the toys and spoke about "hedge-clipping" was hilarious, but the story was very predictable both before and after that. The last few sentences flat-out sucked. "We've gotten to them too late." is such a huge cop out that I can't even describe it. Saki's stories are usually like this for me - a semi-interesting premise that never really goes anywhere, although this particular story was more amusing than the others have been.
You sure can't say that about The Storyteller.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 4:09 pm
by Goldenrat
Meh. I usually like the Saki stories but this one fell flat for me. The production was especially good on this one I thought.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 5:18 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
Geez. I've listened to this episode three time in the last 24 hours (a record) and laugh out louded each time. "Best episode ever" doesn't mean much when it come to the Drabblecast, but, man, that was up there.

I loved both the intro and the story itself because they were so brilliantly satirical and I thought the satire hit home. The rap was great because, aside from just being so unexpected, it hit on what I've always perceived to be the fundamental stupidity of Rock The Vote-type campaigns. Yes, lets recruit all the people who are clueless, who have absolutely no idea what's going in the world and are probably too ignorant to understand it if they were told, and let's get them to decide who should lead the country. "I don't know the difference between a tariff and a tiara, but I'm gonna get out there and vote because P-Diddy told me to." With typical Norm Sherman irony, we get a rap song that lists off a few of the many, many things people who are motivated to vote by rappers have probably never heard of. The song makes fun of the convoluted electoral process, of the people who don't understand the process, of the Rock the Vote people trying to appeal to the ignorant and of itself all at at the same time while delivering a valid social commentary. All that and it's only a minute long. That is art, my friends.

The story itself was funny precisely because it was so spot on. I really wasn't aware that the campaign to suppress boyhood had such a long history, so it was educational for me to hear that these sorts of ideas were floating around 100 years ago. I love the absolute pathetic-ness of the uncle's attempts to explain why a John Stewart Mills action figure is more fun than cavalry. I could just image the children's blank stares as he tries to explain the municipal dustbin toy and his own increasing embarrassment as he tries to conjure up reasons he doesn't really have or believe himself. The awkwardness of the situation was accentuated perfectly by Norm's voice-work and sound effects. That was hilarious, but what I loved most was how the story illustrated that the children were actually right and the adults were morons. Here we have two kids dying to soak up as much culture and knowledge as they can get their brains around, learning history and geography and logical thinking from their healthy boyish play, and then these idiot grown-ups come along and try to take that away from them and replace it with something that is not only stiflingly boring but also much less educational. The image of the uncle pondering how he could rewrite the history book for the express purpose of keeping future generations in ignorance is so apt as to be eternally memorable. It so reflects contemporary attitudes in education which are more concerned with children developing "healthy" personalities than with actually teaching them anything.

As a closing comment, I recall with much chagrin how, in grade school, we boys were forbidden to make finger guns and play cops-and-robbers because, as my teacher explained, "Guns are bad." The girls, in contrast, were free to make up malicious rumors and taunts to destroy one another's self-esteem because, as we all know, "Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." So, to me, this story came as something of a personal vindication.

Well, there, there's some of why I totally loved this episode. Norm, you are awesome.

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:29 pm
by Berandor
You know, I really dislike the idea that children should only play "sanitary" games. It's bullshit. But disagreeing does not a satire make. This so-called "satire" rests on the observation that war games are much more fun than "civilian play", and in order to make that observation, the civil side of it all is described in the most boorish way possible.

Everyday life sees multiple conflicts that need to be solved peacefully, and if you wanted, I am sure you could make great stories about putting together an art show before the evil contractor forecloses your building or, heck, take pretty much any romantic comedy plot.

This story, however, relied on the one hand on the mischaracterization of civilian life and on the other hand on in turn showing how much fun it is when 100 women are slaughtered and 500 are then taken to be raped, because that's "just how kids are". So that in the end, what could be a great satire about a deserving topic (the PC police) ends up being a broad-brushed caricature of a satire and, in turn, not funny.

Do you really think the first thing toymakers would produce for a civilian toy line is a municipal dustbin as opposed to, say, a fire station and a burning house, or a construction site, or a space station (yeah, I know, the line between civilian and military blurs here, but still)?

Posted: Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:31 pm
by Berandor
Oh, and also, Mr Tweedy: Boys play with finger guns and girls make up rumors? Well said.

Posted: Fri Nov 07, 2008 2:05 pm
by strawman
One of the funniest things I ever read on this topic is Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series. Particularly Love Over Scotland's tale of a little boy named Bertie. If Norm ever expands from short speculative fiction, Smith's works would suit him perfectly.

Posted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:17 pm
by bolddeceiver
I liked this story, not so much for the actual content, as for Saki's wonderful mastery of language. He had such a beautiful and distinctive way of storytelling that, if I'd tuned in part way without hearing the author, I probably would have been able to guess.

But the real jewel of this story was Norm's electoral college rap. Any chance of getting a clean copy of that, seperate from the podcast?

Posted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:31 am
by normsherman
bolddeceiver wrote: Any chance of getting a clean copy of that, seperate from the podcast?
Sure thing, I'll slap one up in the MP3 warehouse- I'll letchya know when I do.

Posted: Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:48 am
by tbaker2500
Word. Great episode, dawg.

Posted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:40 am
by zZzacha
I second those words!

Word word

Posted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 2:52 pm
by McToad
Cute story, kind of flat reading. Not a big fan of the Saki stories, they're just okay. Dated, simple, not a lot of life to them. Why not use more from contemporary authors, stories that are more relevant and have a bit more punch?

-McToad

Posted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 3:03 pm
by McToad
Mr. Tweedy wrote: I really wasn't aware that the campaign to suppress boyhood had such a long history, so it was educational for me to hear that these sorts of ideas were floating around 100 years ago.
Thank you for the essay Mr. Tweedy. It made me appreciate the story more--really, I am not being sarcastic--I just hadn't given that much thought to the theme. The topic hits me at home because we're going through that with my boys...me the avid gun nut, my wife banning 'war toys' from the house, and the toddler starting to use sticks, pencils and flashlights as toy guns. Ahhh nature vs. nurture, how sweet it is.

-McToad

Posted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 3:34 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
McToad wrote:
Mr. Tweedy wrote: I really wasn't aware that the campaign to suppress boyhood had such a long history, so it was educational for me to hear that these sorts of ideas were floating around 100 years ago.
Thank you for the essay Mr. Tweedy. It made me appreciate the story more--really, I am not being sarcastic--I just hadn't given that much thought to the theme. The topic hits me at home because we're going through that with my boys...me the avid gun nut, my wife banning 'war toys' from the house, and the toddler starting to use sticks, pencils and flashlights as toy guns. Ahhh nature vs. nurture, how sweet it is.

-McToad
Boys and girls really are totally different. I know stating obvious truths isn't PC, but my one-year-old girl carries (very small) dolls around and chanting "Bebe! Bebe!" My 2 year old girl absolutely refuses to where pants because pants are boy clothes: She wants to wear dresses. Her parent's certainly didn't tell her that. Mrs. Tweedy almost never wears dresses. When the boys and girls play together at church, you should see what they do with the toys: To a boy child, a toy dump truck is for 1.) moving toy rubble or 2.) crashing in a toy fireball. To a girl child, a toy dump truck is a bus or transporting babies from A to B. That's just how they roll.... And that's okay.

Posted: Thu Dec 25, 2008 4:02 pm
by strawman
This is the bestest Christmas ever!
THANKS, Santa!


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Re: Drabblecast 88- The Toys of Peace by Saki

Posted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 2:42 pm
by Unblinking
This one was a lot of fun. Was the municipal dustbin over the top? Well, yeah, but that's why it was so funny. I don't think he was trying to make a deep philosophical point here, he was trying to make a light philosophical point through humor and for me it worked. I found it very interesting that parent advocates were speaking out about violent toys at that time. I guess I'd always thought of that as a more recent trend, and it's interesting to find out otherwise.

And even more than that, it seemed to me that the father had so little imagination for picking out fun but peaceful toys because, although he may be full grown and expected to have grown beyond such things, he's still a boy that wants to play with the very same kind of toys. Being forced to make his children play with those boring toys is just as bad as having to play with them himself.

On the general topic: not every children's toy that boys actually enjoy is based around violence. Some kids like farm toys for instance. I expect that has something to do a machinery fascination as well as awe for the scale of the actual machines--some of those tractors are biiiiig. But there are a heck of a lot more based around violence than not. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, GI Joe, Transformers, Yu-Gi-Oh, even Pokemon is based around tournament fighting even if the combatants have cutesy eyes the size of dinner plates.

Re: Drabblecast 88- The Toys of Peace by Saki

Posted: Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:28 pm
by strawman
If a thing can't stand up to common sense, it's most likely politically correct. Because whatever politics has become is the opposite of reality.

In fact, looks like The Drabblecast is just about to get some serious competition in 2012, as our fiction gets less speculative, and reality gets stranger.

Looking forward to something like the episode about the national debt clogging up a wormhole in the universal toilet. (Galaxies: Is that the Correalis Effect?)

Re: Drabblecast 088 - The Toys of Peace

Posted: Mon Apr 29, 2013 6:26 pm
by sandrilde
I don't think I'm as big a Saki fan as Norm, but I do always appreciate the wry writ and solid writing. Good stuff.