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Whose Basics?: A while back I scavenged a catalog for Back To Basics Toys which seemed to be going for an old-timey aesthetic. Some of the toys are cool (carom game board) and some are lame (Viewmaster) and some are not so much toys as excuses to browbeat some unlucky child with the past (books of nostalgia from "60, 50, and 40 years ago"). But I was unable to find any consistent "basics" that were being returned to. There are wood toys and plastic toys, toys that take batteries and electronic toys. There are copies of toys from throughout the twentieth century. There's laser tag and Lincoln Logs. There are board games and video games.

It's not like the catalog commissioned any of these toys. They're just aggregating stuff from many manufacturers and writing copy. But there did seem to be some vague strand connecting all these items. They're not 'nonviolent' toys: there's Laser Tag and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and a robot shark (robot shark!) that claims "Kids will jump in the 'Shark Tank'!" It's not some hippy brand-aversion thing; most of the toys are generic but there are lots of brand-name toys. Aha! But none of the brands are new. The latest probably date from the 1960s.

Mystery solved. The goal of the catalog is not to get your grandkids to play with the same toys you played with when you were a kid (as I thought before looking at it), it's to stop them from forming traitorous allegiances with unfamiliar brands. Sneaky!

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