From:         Patrick Crispen 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 25 NOV 2004 - TOY Awards / Lego World

TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP(S): 2004 T.O.Y. Awards / Lego World Builder

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and happy Thanksgiving from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, a large gamebird with a fan- shaped tail and wattled neck.

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Family Fun 2004 T.O.Y. Awards Audience: Everyone who will be buying toys in the next few weeks

When I was kid, I really wanted a green "Stretch Monster" toy [see http://tinyurl.com/6zyve ]. Or at least I *thought* I wanted a Stretch Monster. Those commercials that aired during Uncle Zeb's Cartoon Camp on KTUL-TV in Tulsa made Stretch Monster look so COOL. I mean, it was a green monster. And it STRETCHED!

Unfortunately, I didn't get a Stretch Monster for Christmas. Instead, my parents gave me a children's citizens band radio base station. [It was the 1970's. Deal with it.] Terribly disappointed, I ended up trading my CB radio to a friend for his Stretch Monster.

It was possibly the worst trade of my life. The novelty of the Stretch Monster wore off within a day, and he/it was quickly thrown into my toy chest where he/it slowly dripped red ooze over all of my other discarded toys.

If you have the riches of Bill Gates, buying your children toys that lose their appeal within 24 hours is fine. But with normal, non- Gates-ian family budgets stretched to the breaking point, how can you ensure the toys you buy this holiday season are truly great playthings and not just Stretch Monster-esque television hype?

Well, each year Family Fun magazine holds a Toy of the Year (T.O.Y.) competition. This year, the magazine's writers collected 518 brand new toys from well over 100 different manufacturers, dropped the toys in front of 130 elementary school kids in Kennebunk, Maine, and then seriously reconsidered their career choices. [As a wise man once said, "And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That's *one* thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!"]

Anyway, after destroying as many of the toys as is humanly possible, the kids in Kennebunk narrowed down the field of 518 toys to only 63 finalists, the toys the kids wanted to take home with them. And that's when the fun began. The 63 finalist toys were sent to 17 different KinderCare facilities around the United States where 1,170 children spent a combined total of 38,000 hours of play time hitting each other over the head with assorted Tonka trucks.

At the end of the play testing/pummeling, each child voted privately for their absolute favorite toys. The results were compiled by Digital Research on behalf of Family Fun magazine. Oh, and the KinderCare centers got to keep all of the toys as a thank you.

Long story short: The toys on the 2004 T.O.Y. awards list are literally the best of the best, the toys your kids WILL want to play with well after you take down the holiday decorations. For a complete list of this year's winners, just point your favorite web browser to either

http://tinyurl.com/4o3hm

The T.O.Y. Awards themselves are pretty self-explanatory, and the layout of the Awards site hasn't changed much since 2001. There are two dozen award categories that cover both the type of toy and the age group for which that toy was designed. Click on any of the award-winning toys are you are taken to a page that shows you

  • A picture of that particular toy;
  • The toy's manufacturer and suggested US retail price;
  • A one-paragraph description of what makes that toy so cool; and
  • Either a telephone number you can call, or a link you can click,
  • to locate a store in your area that carries that particular toy.

    Neat, huh? Best of all, this year's Awards page also includes a list of this year's best family-friendly video games.

    The reason why Tourbus keeps coming back to the Family Fun magazine T.O.Y. Awards year after year is that it is hands-down the best, most up-to-date toy buying guide around. If you are looking for a toy that your kids will play with long after the holiday season is over, check out Family Fun's toy list before you even THINK about bravely venturing into the eternal nightmare that is a toy store during the holiday shopping season.

    Lego World Builder Audience: Everyone

    On a completely unrelated topic, if you are looking for a complete a total time sponge, check out

    http://www.lego.com/create/activities/worldbuilder/

    Created by the mad geniuses at Gamelab [gmlb.com], Lego World Builder is a free, online, Flash-based, real-time strategy game that uses virtual Lego bricks. No, really. Using your computer and a mouse, your goal is to put together, take apart, and reconstruct vehicles in order to complete 35 different game levels.

    Lego World Builder sounds simple, but as the levels progress the game gets infinitely more difficult and progressively more time-consuming. In fact, I'm still grumbling about World Two Level 12 which took me a couple of *DAYS* to figure out.

    Of course, everyone knows I'm an idiot fascinated by bright, shiny objects. Give Lego World Builder and spin and then drop me a line in the Tourbus Forum with YOUR opinion:

    http://tinyurl.com/3kgdz

    Tivo! Audience: US residents thinking of buying a Tivo

    I just wanted to remind you that if you are looking for a tech gift to buy yourself this holiday season, you can still get a Tivo for about US$80-$100 after a $100 rebate at most major US electronics retailers. If you've never seen a Tivo in action, check out Tivo's interactive Flash demo at

    http://www.tivo.com/1.0.demo.asp

    I've been a Tivo subscriber for a couple years now, and it has literally changed the way that I watch TV.

    By the way, when activating your Tivo please use this address as the referring party:

    tivo@netsquirrel.com

    Why? Well, as I mentioned in an earlier post, if you buy a TiVo box and subscribe to the TiVo service, Tivo is going to reward me with free schwag. My goal is to get so many people signed up that I can give free Tivos to everyone on the planet. :P

    Seriously though, if you've been thinking about getting a Tivo, now is the time to do it. Even if you don't tell them I sent you.

    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

    That's it for today! Have a safe and happy week, and we'll talk again soon.

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     (\__/)  .'     )  ))       Patrick Douglas Crispen
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    {o_,    \    {              crispen@netsquirrel.com
      / ,  , )    \            http://www.netsquirrel.com/
      `~  -' \    } ))    AOL Instant Messenger: Squirrel2K
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