In Honor of Black Friday, 10 Things You Might Not Know About Toys

Today is Black Friday, and throughout the land, consumers are attacking stores and malls and online retailers in search of goodies for their loved ones. The playtime cognoscenti at Toys “R” Us say the most popular presents for kids this year will include the Fischer Price Code-a-pillerHatchimals and the Num Noms Lip Gloss Truck, whatever the hell that is. Also on their list? DreamWorks Troll dolls, which look exactly like the Troll dolls we played with half a century ago that now sell for, like, $80 apiece on eBay. Which got us wondering: Where did Troll dolls come from in the first place? Or Barbie dolls, or teddy bears, for that matter? Here, a chronological list of the origins of 10 great American toys. Read more »

Eight U.S. Political Parties That Withered Away


L to R: Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Andrew Jackson. | Photos via Wikimedia

The voters have spoken, the winner’s been decided — and pundits are saying the biggest loser of all in this election could be our two time-honored political parties. (Then again, what do pundits know, right?) Before the election, the talk was of a Republican schism; now, there’s speculation the Democrats may split apart. Though the occasional outlier (the Green Party, the Socialist Party) crops up, the U.S. has been ruled by either the GOP or the Dems my entire life, and I just turned 60, so I’m, like, practically dead. That said, shit happens. Political parties do morph. They even expire. Here are quite a few that now are gone with the wind. Read more »

How We Became Me

Illustration by Vahram Muradyan

Illustration by Vahram Muradyan

When I was in grade school, I was a Girl Scout. To be in the Girl Scouts, you had to buy a uniform. You went to Sears and you bought your uniform and you wore it to meetings, even though it was bunchy and uncomfortable and weird (what was with that necktie?), because that’s what all the other girls in your Girl Scout troop did, and you wanted to fit in. You wanted to belong. As I recall my adolescence, in fact, it was all one mighty heaving haul toward belonging, toward deliquescing into the melting pot, slipping sideways into the streaming mass of humanity without standing out or sticking forth or even particularly being noticed. The goal was assimilation — being subsumed completely, without causing a ripple. Read more »

“Songs for Syria” Was Inspired by Tragic Viral Photo


It was that photo of the boy — the bloodied boy sitting silently in an ambulance in Aleppo, sitting on a cheery orange seat.

Joan Heider, who does PR for a Center City law firm, and her friend Fae Ehsan, who works for the local chapter of a national nonprofit, were sitting in Heider’s apartment, talking about that photo, the one that had gone viral. That had put, yet again, a young face on the horror of war. “We have to do something,” Heider and Ehsan agreed. That’s when Heider’s then-roommate, Act II Playhouse managing director Eileen Cella, came home. “What are you two talking about?” she asked. They told her. She’d seen the photo, too. Everyone had.

“We have to do something,” Heider said again.

Cella thought about it. “I have a theater,” she said. Read more »

Don’t Blame Donald Trump for Donald Trump

Trump photo: Andrew Harnik/AP. Kane: Matt Rourke/AP. Christie: still from NJTV livestream; used under a Creative Commons license

Trump photo: Andrew Harnik/AP. Kane: Matt Rourke/AP. Christie: still from NJTV livestream; used under a Creative Commons license

My boss asked me the other day why I was writing fewer opinion pieces online than I used to. I told him the truth: that I was tired of getting dragged through commenter hell whenever I did. He thought about that for a minute, then nodded: “I can see that.”

Back when the Internet was a baby, I was writing books for a living. When one came out and was posted on Amazon, there would commence a flood of “reviews”: Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Sam Katz’s Secret Stash

Sam Katz Smokes Weed

So stalwart civic watchdog Sam Katz—a man who campaigned to become governor of Pennsylvania, a former Republican business leader, a municipal finance expert, a guy who’s run for mayor here on numerous occasions—was on his way to do some fishing in Florida on Thursday when cops pulled him off his plane. Seems Sam (for God’s sake, man, you were a Rizzo supporter!) had packed a little pot in his bag. When the news broke, helpful commenters deluged him with suggestions on how not to get caught the next time (“Pro tip: carry-on luggage”); Sam admitted to being “terribly embarrassed,” noted that he was a “child of the ’60s,” got slapped with a $25 fine, and caught the next plane. Hey, all you millennials still living with Mom and Dad? This is why we always seem so happy when you leave town for the weekend. Now stay out of our dresser drawers.

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