*Special Weapons and Tactics
I am delinquent for not updating this blog, I know.
So, I’m writing with what I’ve been thinking about recently… not food, but Legos.
I live behind Carrafour, the French grocery chain. While I’m theoretically opposed to chain stores of all kinds, the willing spirit sometimes does succumb to the flesh of the weak. Not to mention that the chain sells has both a good selection of Chinese wine, (another, later post), Dongbei Chunky Peanut butter, Campari at 10 bucks a bottle, and the only multigrain bread available in Nanjing.
In typical chain-store style, they make you pass through the house wares section before getting to the grocery area. Usually, I resentfully book it past, but I was in a generous mood, and decided I would browse. What I found: Sluban.
Sluban is a Chinese knockoff brand of Legos. The bricks are the same. The people are the same. Their little yellow-pegged heads snap onto square bodies. But they are the evil cousins; Sluban are fascist police-state Legos.
I grew up with Legos. I never had GI Joes, He-Man, Atari, Nintendo, or other violent, gender-specific toys. Instead: Legos, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys. I built forts with the primary-colored bricks, and coveted the translucent (rare) jewel legos. My favorite was the blacksmith, an obscure member of the Castle Lego line. He was a hooded, mallet wielding character who appealed to my childhood desire to be a craftsman (watchmaker, bookbinder, medieval-manuscript-illuminating monk, whatever…)
So the Chinese line of Riot Police Legos took me by surprise. Legos without the standard smiley face expressions, but wrap-around sunglasses and automatic weapons. Legomen patrolling the streets in armored tanks, wielding machine guns, red berets, and chain cutting clippers.
Although antithetical to the whole idea of my childhood, I intend to buy the store out, as gifts for friends. This… this transformation… somehow captures the spirit of the times in a way that no other souvenir (silk, tea, abaci?) can. Globalization embodied: the Chinese knockoff of a Dutch toy, of American riot police, sold in a French grocery store: an utter distortion of childhood, and a sign that then end, yes, is nigh.