Friday, December 15, 2017

Cereal cafes? Really? Cereal cafes?

As a Baby Boomer, I must say I enjoy seeing the millennials replace as as everyone’s target  - good, bad, and indifferent: consumer  sweeping generational generalizations, all-hail their openness, all scorn their helplessness, and – of course – all that consumer marketing aimed at them. It’s about time that some generation has come along large enough to take some of the attention and heat off of us. (And let me tell you, you young whippersnappers, you’re going to miss us when we’re gone. By cracky, you’re going to miss having someone around who knows how to dial a phone, read a map, and put a penny on the arm of the stereo so the needle doesn’t skip when you’re playing an LP.)

Anyway, I took great delight, a year and a half back, making fun of millennials for finding cereal too inconvenient to eat (dirty bowls and all that), and of Kellogg’s for trying to turn breakfast cereal into a snack. (Here’s my snap, crackle and popping take on that issue of great import. And if you do read it, I know, I know. There’s a point where I use “serial” for “cereal.”)

Well, Kellogg’s back at wooing the millennials, this time by:

opening a cavernous new cereal cafe in Manhattan’s Union Square -- doubling down on a concept that it started in Times Square last year.

The cafe will be about fives times larger and feature an Instagram station with props and professional lighting, designed to help customers perfect their social-media posts. There’s a full cereal bar, giant murals of Kellogg characters like Tony the Tiger, a station to heat up Pop-Tarts and a special iron to cook fresh Eggo waffles.

“We want cereal to be seen as modern,” said Aleta Chase, a marketing executive at the Battle Creek, Michigan-based company. (Source: Bloomberg)

As it happens, I have a millennial niece who goes to school not far from Union Square. I’m guessing she wouldn’t darken the doors of this joint. Unless this cafe becomes an “ironic” setting for the millennials –could Tony the Tiger actually be woke? -  who live and learn in the vicinity of Union Square, I can’t see this going anywhere.

I’m sure Kellogg’s spent a kabillion dollars market researching this idea. And God knows what I know about consumer marketing could dance on the head of a pin with Toucan Sam and Snap, Crackle & Pop. But it seems to me that the cereal cafe idea might fare better near the big state schools. Lots of millennials, but just a tad fewer hipsters than in NYC.

But Kellogg’s is desperate. Cereal sales have been plummeting for years. Thus, the company’s push to start making cereal a snack rather than a breakfast food.

the cafe in Union Square is an attempt to generate some foodie buzz. In fact, it was the slew of pictures posted by visitors to the Times Square location that helped convince the company it needed a bigger space.

I’m guessing that this is the first time in recorded history that breakfast cereal has been associated with foodie buzz.

“We needed something that was more experiential,” Chase said. “There’s a more lasting emotional connection if they experience it firsthand -- that’s hard to do with a TV commercial.”

Oh, I don’t know about that. I have an emotional connection to the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies jingle, even if it wasn’t all that experiential.

But it’s a different world out there.

Breakfast this morning? It might be Cheerios and blueberries. Or it might be plain yogurt with granola and blueberries. Whatever it is, it will be consumed in-house and not in a cereal cafe. And it will not be shared with the world on Insta.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

My shopping’s done, and then this. Darn!

Many years ago, there was an ad campaign for business-friendly Massachusetts that used a jingle about “making it in Massachusetts.”

Most of what’s made in Massachusetts is, of course, of the non-tangible variety: healthcare, financial services, ideas. And in the technology lane, most of what’s made in Massachusetts is also intangible. Software, and within that, most of what is made is for business or for technologists. (My career has been mostly in B2B and T2T software.)

But there is, as Scott Kirsner detailed in a recent Boston Globe article, some consumer stuff made here as well. He writes:

For much of the year, I’m a grinch, complaining that Boston startups don’t really grok the consumer mindset. They excel primarily at selling to businesses. All the cool electronics companies are on the Left Coast. And so on . . .

But this week, I’m trying to see the eggnog glass as half-full. You could stuff a pretty big sack full of goodies made by Boston-area companies — or easily dole out one for each night of Hanukkah. (Source: Boston Globe)

So he “curated” – his word – a list of gifts, not all electronic, by the way, that, if not made in Massachusetts (seriously!) are at least designed and marketed here. Here are the items (unlike B2B software) that he thinks can plausibly land in your shopping cart:

Bose noise-cancelling headphones made the list. I see people with these on planes all the time, but airplane noise doesn’t really bother me. But there’s a major reno project just getting underway next door – gut reno, including replacing most of the floors (minor fire on their top floor last summer resulted in “totaled” water damage; those fire fighters don’t hold back when it comes to dousing flames, thankfully) – and there’s the hole in my hall ceiling that lets in the gurgling pipe noises from the floors above. So, yes, I could use some noise-canceling headphones. Would I spring for $350 to have a set that comes with a Google assistant. Probably not. Still, since I’m all shopped out for everyone else, it is time to consider what to put on the “me” list.

I’ve never heard of Brunswick Park, but I just took a look and I’d like in. Or I would have liked in, if – when I donned that machine washable, comfy, stretchy, machine-washable blazer (“apparel for innovators, creators, and makers”) I could look like one of the models. It’s pricey, but seems like it might be worth price. My only concern is the woman’s blazer  - “designed for the woman who kicks ass and takes names from morning to night” is a short cropped-ish jacket with a detachable peplum. Word association: peplum/ugh. Plus, I do believe I’ve aged out of the kicking ass and taking names demographic.

Then there’s Ministry of Supply, which ups the ante with Millennial professional clothing made with a 3-D knitting technology. And the founders are MIT engineers, which makes it quite interesting. (Word association: MIT/unfashionable.) The clothing is cool but, once again, I don’t think I’m there demographic. Plus I’m a bit worried that they describe their clothing as “sculpted.” Word association: sculpted/ugh. Still, I walk by their store on Newbury Street all the time. Someday, I just might stick my head in. Maybe after I lose 20 pounds.

Pavlok invites its customers to “TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR BEHAVIOR. CHANGE YOUR HABITS, CHANGE YOUR LIFE”, and asks you to start out by taking a quiz on what bad habit you’d like to drop – oversleeping, wasting time, nail biting, negative thoughts, unhealthy eating, oversleeping. They make a life-changing wearable, a wristband that shocks you when you behave badly. As long as Trump’s in office, if I chose negative thoughts as my bad habit, I’d end up being lobotomized. Pass! But props for the LOL name.

I have enough problems dodging make-your-own-rules-of-the-road bikers in Boston. I would really not be encouraging any of them to add  electric wheels from GeoOrbital or Superpedestrian to their steeds, as these wheels “can turn just about any bike into a speed demon.” As if these guys don’t go plenty fast enough already (even on sidewalks, and always when pedaling headlong down a street – the wrong way, of course).

Speaker Creatures, are designed for bath-time. Sounds like fun if you’re giving a kid a bath. I’m not. Plus I create my own music in the shower, thank you. Isn’t that what oldies and a good memory are for?

With SharkNinja and iRobot, the Boston Metro is awash in robot housekeepers. Nothing I’m interested in. And the Jibo Robot “which aims to serve as a kind of countertop concierge for your home.” No thanks on that one, too. It’s also billed as “the world’s first social robot.” I can’t begin to fully grasp what that means for the future of mankind. Nor do I want to.

A little less socially, but probably more useful, Franklin Robotics will have a “solar-powered bot that battles weeds” out next summer.

Sonos isn’t made here, but they do tech development in Boston. And Amazon Echo’s embedded speech recognition office “is crafted in Cambridge.” Artisanal software? Lordy, lord. So Bostonians can buy locally if they pick up a Sonos One smart speaker or Echo Dot. And security conscious folks may want to pick up a SimpliSafe security camera.

But wait, there’s more:

Shopping on sites like Chewy.com (pet gear), Wayfair (home furnishings), Gemvara or CustomMade (custom jewelry), or The Grommet (unique products from independent creators) supports jobs in Boston. So does buying a gift card from sites like Rue La La (apparel and travel) or Drizly (beer, wine, and liquor delivered to your door).

There’s a young woman in my building who orders a ton from Rue La La, and I did meet some of their folks volunteering in the kitchen at St. Francis House a while back. But basically the only company here I purchase from is Wayfair because, yes, when I did my reno they really did have “just what I need.” I had to get rid of the Wayfair app on my phone, however. It had the annoying habit of ringing a doorbell every time they had any sort of little promo or whatever to share. That bit of annoyance was most decidedly not what I need.

Thanks, Scott, for the roundup of local products. Good to know that, after all these years, you can make it, make in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The rest of the Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts

The Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gift list is just so long and lush, I had to devote two posts to it. More or less as a public service, mind you. After all, if you didn’t find what you wanted in the first half, surely you might in the second.

Rolls Dawn Drophead Coupés I’m mostly an Uber and Zipcar kind of gal, but if I were to get another car, I might consider a Rolls. And $439,625 for this charmer seems well worth the price. After all, you can’t roll into George and Amal Clooney’s driveway at Lago Di Como – that’s Lake Como to those who aren’t on a first name basis with George, Amal, and the twins – in an Uber or a Zipcar. image If you don’t like the Lago Di Como Blue – or, as the N-M copy says, you believe that “sharing is overrated” there’s a slightly pricier version for $445,750 in Saint Tropez Orange. The prices might seem silly-high, but I will note the cars do come with lambswool floor mats.

Olympia Le-Tan Bespoke Handbags An order of magnitude down the Fantasy Gift price chain, Olympia Le-Tan (who may be related to Gray Malin, Stephen Webster, or the D’Ornanos, whose wares graced yesterday’s post) will whip up six bespoke handbags. Once again, if you’re not familiar with Le-Tan’s work, she “designs witty and wonderful clutches that reflect her obsession with embroidery and literature.” Obsession with literature? NM BooksUmmmm. All four of those witty and wonderful clutches (Psycho, Vertigo, Rebecca, and Casino Royale) are movies. Three made by Alfred Hitchcock. Sure, Rebecca was a novel. And I guess you can call something by Daphne du Maurier literature. But that’s the movie poster on the witty and wonderful clutch, not the book cover. As for Casino Royale, I don’t believe that the works of Ian Fleming are considered literature. Just good reads. And a side note on that Psycho bag: if any man I know saw a woman approaching him carrying a Psycho bag, I don’t think he’d be thinking witty and wonderful. I think he’d be thinking Fatal Attraction, Glenn Close, and dead bunnies.  

Experience the Ryder Cup as a VIP Well, the Ryder Cup is in France next year – at least it’s not at a Trump course -  so there’s that. But for $250K… As the saying goes, first prize: one trip to the Ryder Cup. Second prize, two trips to the Ryder Cup. Nuf said on this one, but I’m not a golfer.

Give clean-water wells, get 250 ornaments At $50,000 this one actually seems worth the price. Sure, that’s a lot to pay for a bunch of paper ornaments, but this is actually a donation to Paper for Water. “Founded by two enterprising young sisters, the nonprofit
offers handmade paper ornaments to help fund clean-water wells for
communities in need.” And if you buy just one of the ornaments for $50, all the proceeds go to this endeavor.

Private New Year’s Eve Party for 300 in Times Square I don’t know 300 people, so this one would be lost on me – even if I did have $1,600,000 (of which a measly $80K goes to charity) to spring for it. Anyway, it’s at the Knickerbocker Hotel, which has been all tarted up – forgive me, I meant “fully reimagined for a new era.” Everyone in your party party gets two nights at the Knick, assuming they’re willing to share their room with one other (significant or not). What a swell party it sounds like:

On December 31, 2018, the sky-high private party will brim with premium drinks, a sumptuous passed dinner, a spirited DJ, and that brilliant ball drop—the most exciting minute in the world. More than a billion people will see it, but only a few will see it like this.

If I manage to keep my eyes open, I’ll be one in a billion watching the ball drop.

Anyway, now that you’ve seen the 2017 Fantasy Gifts, what are you waiting for? Go forth and shop!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Stocking Stuffers? Look no further than the NM Fantasy Gifts. (Part 1 of 2)

One of the things I enjoy the most about the holidays is the annual Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book, especially the chapter devoted to Fantasy Gifts. This year, of course, the Fantasy Gifts take on special importance, as they give us a keener insight into why billionaires can use a tax cut. Truly, when I virtually thumb through the catalog, I completely understand why us blue-state liberal middle-classers should gladly suck it up and accept that we’ll be paying more than we did last year. After all, it’s for an excellent cause.

Here’s what’s in the this year’s goody book.

Personalize your own Armand de Brignac cuvée Part of that excellent cause is making sure there’s someone, knowing there’s a tax cut coming, who’ll feel they can spring for the $150,000 trip to the Champagne Region of France to pick up 24 bottles of your very own personal cuvée. Oh, there’s other stuff thrown in, like a 12-course dinner at a snooty Paris restaurant. And a helicopter tour of Champagne country. Plus five cases of the other five Armand de Brignac champagnes to sip while you’re waiting for your bespoke cuvée to arrive.

Private flight & photo session with Gray Malin For the more pocketbook-conscious (or should I say Birkin bag-conscious), there’s a photo session with Gray Malin for $35K. Now, this would perhaps mean more to me if I’d ever heard of Gray Malin, but I haven’t. So I’ll take NM’s word for it that he’s “famous for his sunny, saturated aerial scenes.” The one-hour session is over LA, so you might want to wait until their hellscape fire is out. Anyway, this gift comes with a post-flight champagne toast with Malin. If you’re friends with the private cuvée folks, maybe you’ll get to sip their bespoke bubbly. (I will note that all of the Fantasy Gifts include a donation to a charity. For this gift, $5K of the $35K price goes the the NM Foundation. There’s a no-doubt worthy charity lined up for the cuvée profits, but here’s the disclaimer: the charity “will retain any profits from the sale of t his Fantasy Gift for its charitable initiatives.” Any profits? Hmmmm.)

19 Madame Alexander Dolls (plus doll house) Sure, Madame Alexander Dolls are lovely. I remember my own lovely Madame Alexander dolls – they must not have been pricey in the 1950’s, or I would have gotten knockoffs for sure – Ginny and Ginette. Too bad I destroyed Ginny’s lovely brunette flip trying to style it. My mother replaced it with a braided blond wig that I think cost three bucks. She figured – correctly – that I couldn’t be bothered undoing the braids. Plus there was the threat of having a bald Ginny doll if I destroyed the second hairdo. Ginette was a tiny little blue-eyed baby doll. Those blue eyes weren’t blue enough for me, so I tried to Magic Marker in eyes that were even bluer. Unfortunately, I took the whites of Ginette’s eyes out, too. My mother did not replace those eyes. Ginette looked fine as long as she was in resting, shut-eye baby doll mode. So, I get why someone would want a bunch of Madame Alexander dolls. But 19 dolls over the course of a year seems excessive. And $8K seems steep. I mean, don’t these dolls retail for about $100 each? Plus that doll house, while sweet, doesn’t look like it would hold 19 dolls. Of course, in this the Age of Narcissism, you also get a custom doll:

…hair color, eye color, and even outfit design for the fortunate giftee, who will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to collaborate via Skype with a top Madame Alexander designer. Will it be a miniature me? A pint-sized replica of a best pal? The dimensions may be small,but the possibilities are virtually limitless. (Source: Neiman Marcus)

The possibilities may be endless, but I’m guessing that more giftees will opt for the mini-me than the best pal.

Sisley-Paris Experience & Products for a Year What might Sisley-Paris be? Well, you’re obviously the sort of person who buys their cosmetics at Macy’s or CVS. Sisley-Paris means “Powerful Plant-Based Cosmetics”, unlike the chemical, bunny-killing junk you’re painting on your skin. Anyway, for just $60K, you get products like their Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream And so as not to be sexist, there’s also plenty of Sisley pour l’homme. Like theimageir Anti-Age Global Revitalizer. I didn’t read the fine print but might “global revitalizer” mean what I think it could? Toss out the Viagra and start globally revitalizing with Sisley? Anyway, on top of all the other goodies in the Sisley goody-bag, you get “a private lunch with a member of Sisley’s founding d’Ornano family in their famous apartment.” Oh. Dear. Oh very, very dear.

A Trip to the Zambian Gem Fields and a One-of-a-Kind Piece of Jewelry I guess Stephen Webster must be to jewelry design what Gray Malin is to aerial art photography. And then some. This gift starts with a trip to an emerald mine, and then a chance to “behold raw emeralds being processed in the sorting house.” Don’t know about this one. I’m flashing on Blood Diamond, and Leo DiCaprio getting shot at. Or shooting someone. I’ve forgotten everything about that film other than the violence. Anyway, for $300,000 you get to go the mines, and then get the emerald of your dreams turned into a ring or brooch or whatever you want to collaborate with Stephen Webster.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Johnny? Mais Johnny doesn’t ride the bus…

The big news in France last week was that rocker JJohnny hallydayohnny Hallyday - France’s version of Elvis - has, metaphorically speaking, left the building. On Saturday, his funeral procession made its way down the Champs Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron – who, amazingly, was called by Johnny’s wife at 2 a.m. the night he died -  spoke at his funeral Mass. A nation mourned.

There’sVee mask Johnny up there to the right. He looks kind of like a weird, devilish cross between Barry Manilow, a BeeGee, and the Vee mask guy. Mostly like the Vee mask guy. I guess it’s a French thing.

New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, who logged a number of years in Paris, had a good piece about Johnny, in which he admitted the France’s affection for the singer was somewhat mystifying. As he wrote:

There is no complete accounting for national taste in pleasure any more than for individual taste in love.

And here’s what Gopnik wrote to provide a bit of context to that “no complete accounting for national taste”:

Johnny—he was never called anything else—for those who have not been paying attention to the French tabloids for the past fifty years, was the single greatest and most beloved pop star of France. Born Jean-Philippe Smet, during the Occupation, by legend he took the name Hallyday from an “American relative.” He came to be called the “French Elvis,” and this was true—but it was not true in the way that, say, Charles Aznavour could be called the French Sinatra, or the great Charles Trenet the French Noël Coward.

To use those names was to approximate, in terms familiar to us, remarkable artists who finally had to be understood on their own terms. Johnny was the French Elvis in more or less the same sense that an Elvis impersonator in Branson, Missouri, is the Missouri Elvis: he dutifully imitated the manners of the master while translating them into his own personal style.

The titles of some of Johnny’s hits suggest the painfully persistent note of wistful pastiche: “Joue Pas de Rock’n’Roll Pour Moi” (“Don’t Play Rock and Roll for Me”); “C’est le Mashed Potatoes”; “Laissez-Nous Twister”; “Quelque Chose de Tennessee.” In each case, the American idiom was laid out painfully, aspirationally, over a straight up-and-down of the scales of French chanson style, with bad drumming added.

The real virtues of rock and roll—the Chuck Berry virtues of high-speed compression and sly wit, the rebellious wink and the laconic put-down—were as alien to Johnny as they were to Edith Piaf. Famed for his Elvisian antics onstage, he was, surprisingly for a French star, less sexy than sexual, real erotic appeal depending, at least in part, on knowingness. Elvis, as he demonstrated with charm in his 1968 comeback special, knew exactly when to swivel his hips and how to curl his lip. He controlled it. Johnny just did it.

Johnny just did it. Maybe so. But I can promise you that he did not ride in the tour bus with his band. At least not in France, in the summer of 1973.

My friend Joyce and I were hitchhiking around Europe, and somewhere in France – near Carcasonne? it was definitely in the boonies – we got a lift with his tour bus.

We’d heard of Johnny Hallyday. And I’m pretty sure I would have seen him on Ed Sullivan, a Sunday night viewing staple in the Rogers’ household. I’m sure that we (my entire family, with the exception of my way-too-nice mother) would have made some fun of him, in much the same way we made fun of dancing bear and spinning plate acts, and Topo Gigio. But I wasn’t familiar with his oeuvre, that’s for sure.

We knew it was the Johnny Hallyday band because his name was emblazoned on the side of the bus. We were pretty excited hopping on. Here we were, a couple of American girls, and we were going to get to meet a French heart throb. Alas, when we inquired about the whereabouts of Johnny, the band members just gave us a Gallic shrug, one of them telling us, “Oh, Jawn-eeee, he does not ride ze bus. Jawn-eeee flies.” Quel dommage! How much fun would that have been? Joyce and I, too, might have been joining France, and their cute president, Emmanuel Macron, in mourning.

We weren’t on the bus that long. We were heading to Point A, they were heading to Point B. This was July 1973, and Johnny Hallyday was touring all over France. Did they offer us tickets to a concert? I don’t recall. (Unlike Blood, Sweat & Tears, who made me so very happy when I waited on them at Durgin-Park in the summer of 1972 when they gave me two front row tickets to their gig.) We parted on good terms. I think they gave us something to eat.

If you want to see Johnny in his prime, here’s a link to his version of “Let’s Twist Again.” And yes, I did get up and do the twist in this honor. And, no, I wasn’t wearing a pajama-looking outfit like the girls in that video.

Au revoir, Jawn-eeee. As Adam Gopnik says, there’s no accounting for national taste.

Friday, December 08, 2017

A Holy Day of Obligation in the United States

Growing up, there were plenty of things that separated kids who went to parochial schools from their peers (a.k.a., pubs) who attended public school.  Wearing w a uniform was the obvious difference. And because we wore uniforms, we were warned by the nuns that we were always visible and recognizable to the general public, who would be judging the entire Roman Catholic Church based on the behavior of students from Our Lady of Angels Grammar School. Thus, it was a double sin to swipe a yoyo from Woolworth’s or throw an ice ball at a car. (Not that a goody two-shoes like me would have done either of those things.)

Even at the time, I had to wonder who these folks were who were doing the judging.Worcester at the time was about 2/3rds Catholic, and the neighborhood I grew up in about 90% Catholic. But, whatever Sta (that’s “Sister” in Worcester-ese) said went.

Another thing that separated parochial schoolers from pubs was that, the occasional yoyo swipe aside, parochial schoolers were honest, and pubs were thieves. Thus, on Catechism day, when the pubs, in their anything-goes clothing, came in after school to sit at our desks, in our chairs, to receive an hour’s worth of the indoctrination we got from the opening bell to the final prayer of the day, we were told to take home anything of value, and push our pens and pencils to the furthest reaches of our desks. Because pubs stole.

The best thing about going to parochial school, however, was that we got Holy Days of Obligation off.

Some Holy Days – Christmas and New Year’s (which when I was a kid was called the Feast of the Circumcision – ouchy- but is now a celebration of Mary Mother of God) – were general holidays. Thus no special benefit accrued to Catholic schoolers. August 15th – the Feast of the Assumption wasn’t worth a damn. We were off for the summer, plus we had to go to Mass, which is what the obligation in Holy Day of Obligation is all about.

The good Holy Days were November 1st, All Saints Day and, not at all coincidentally, the day after Halloween. Getting up and going to Mass was a reasonably good trade-off for having the rest of the day to loll around and eat any candy that your mother hadn’t commandeered. The Feast of the Ascension – 40 days after Easter – was another good one. It was typically a nice enough spring day, a good break between Patriots’ Day and Memorial Day, and an opportunity to taunt pubs who, on a nice enough spring day, would of course rather be outside playing than inside learning.

December 8th is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Many Catholics, let alone outsiders, are under the false impression that the the conception that was immaculate was when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost. Not so. It refers to Mary having been herself conceived without original sin on her soul, unlike the rest of us poor schnooks.

Anyway, December 8th was a very fine day to have off. It meant you could head down to Woolworth’s to do your Christmas shopping, wearing your civvies, so that no one who saw you swipe that yoyo would judge the Catholic Church based on your behavior. Plus, if you did swipe that yoyo, you’d only be guilty of the sin of stealing, not the sin of causing scandal.

I am not taking the day off, let alone going to church.

And I don’t think that Catholic schools get the day off, either. Too many working parents who wouldn’t be thrilled to have their kids home on a weird-ball day.

Still, it’s fun to recall the good old days, when there was something mighty valuable – beyond learning how to diagram sentences and do mental arithmetic -  about going to parochial school.

 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Bah humbug to cyber-scalpers. (Nasty little Grinch Bots.)

I’ve been volunteering the past few years for Christmas in the City, a 100% volunteer charity that puts on a big holiday party for kids living in homeless shelters, and also provides families in need with toys for their children. Between the holiday party and the toy drive, we’re talking thousands upon thousands of presents under one big metaphorical tree.

One of my CITC tasks this year involved working on our wishlist, the Amazon gift registry that contains the toys we could use the most. Each year, we add a few items to it, and take a few items off. The toys on the list run pretty much anywhere from $10-15-ish to $40 (or somewhere in the vicinity of $40). In any case, nothing over $50. At least that was the case when we added new items in November.

Then, what to our wondering eyes did appear but a $30 baby doll that’s now going for $70!

And then there are the Fingerlings. FingerlingNo, we’re not talking fingerling potato here. A Fingerling is a little monkey-like creature that you wrap around your finger. When we added them to our list, they were about $13, as I recall. Now, well, would you pay $50 for this littler piece of crap? I sure wouldn’t, and I hope that no one buying gifts for Christmas in the City does, either. (I just put a caveat emptor warning on our FB page.)

On the news last night, I even heard that they were going for $1,000 on eBay, but I checked just now, and that tulip bulb madness seems to have passed. Still, they’re in the upper-$40’s on Amazon.

Bah humbug to these cyber-scalpers is all I can say.

Mostly, I’m not all that anti-scalper.

I don’t mind the “got tickets?need tickets?” guys outside of Fenway.  I don’t mind an individual standing in physical or virtual line to buy up tickets.  And in real life, I’m guessing that when they’re out there at game time, they’re working for scalping reseller sites. But when the acquisition is all electronic, and a human really can’t compete, that really pisses me off.

I can’t stand it when I have to pay a lot more for a concert ticket because some scalper-bot has sucked up all the inventory the moment the tickets are released. But whoever’s producing the concert doesn’t care, as long as the venue sells out.

Ditto for the scalping reseller sites for sporting events.

But I guess if I want to pay an inflated price for a ticket to see Springsteen or the Red Sox, well, whatever the market can bear…

I suppose I should feel the same way about scalping toys. But I don’t. I hate the cyber-scalpers for running up the price of Fingerlings. They are especially insidious, even though I think it’s really dumb for anyone to get caught up in the ‘toy of the moment’ mania. Still, a pox on the cyber-scalpers’ Grinch bots.

Online scammers with an arsenal of cyberbots are stealing Christmas by buying up the most popular toys of the season and selling them for a hefty markup on third-party sites such as Amazon and eBay.

While the demand for the hottest toys is particularly high this time of year, shoppers are competing against a growing army of bots. For years, scalpers have taken advantage of software robots to scoop up event tickets, but now scammers are employing the same tactics to cheat Christmas shoppers, says MSNBC anchor and economics correspondent Ali Velshi.

"Regular people could never buy them at face value," he tells Here & Now's Robin Young. "The idea that it was bots — scalpers using algorithms — to buy up all the tickets in the first place, and then sell them either via a third-party vendor or independently to people, and this has now moved its way into the hot holiday toy sales industry." (Source: NPR)

We’ve long had these toy scarcities. Remember the Cabbage Patch Kids shortage? Ticket Me Elmo?

But that was pre-“complex algorithm”, which just seems so unfair.

Even though I think it is completely ridonculous to get caught up in hot pursuit of the hottest gifts, which just feeds into our plastic-fantastic, overwrought, junk consumer goods economy.

Can you say mixed emotions?

I guess the thing to do is to try bricks and mortar, where it’s unlikely that someone will be trying to sell a Fingerling for $1,000. Or do what my parents would do, back in my slightly post-Little House in the Prairie childhood, when Christmas was a relatively subdued affair -  a couple of toys, crayons and Play-Do in your stocking, flannel PJs.

If they hadn’t gotten around to getting us (or, in my mother’s case, making us) something that they had planned to – which I promise you was not very likely to be anything flashy from anyone’s gotta have it list – my mother would wrap up a picture of the item. There you go, kids!

But that was when deferred gratification and refusal to be caught up in consumer frenzies were considered best practices for raising kids.

Ah, the good old days, before we had Grinch bots gobbling up all those Fingerlings.