Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cool Toys - or, what the heck is an atalatl?

I had an email exchange with a friend about my Celebrity Roast post last night. Briefly, it started with a question "Why do you bother with that garbage?" Fair question. I did turn it off after ten minutes, but there was nonetheless something horribly fascinating about it. Kind of like looking at road kill in an advanced state of decay.

I commented, "I'll probably develop this more later, but a sense of humor and the ability to be funny has a lot to do with wisdom, courage and other desirable qualities. The interesting thing about that sad spectacle is that they weren't having fun. What the heck is it with these people? Their eat-out budget is likely enough to support my lifestyle. I bet I'm having more fun though. I despise cheap Jacobinism, but really, why aren't these people happier than they appear to be, having far less in the way of financial worries and far more in the way of cool toys than I do?"

Eric Hoffer once said it was a mistake to believe that a sense of high purpose is necessary for great achievement, that great things are often accomplished by men who set their hearts on toys.

What kind of cool toys could I buy with the kind of money major Hollywood stars have? Cool cars, and motorcycles! A private plane or an ultralight. Trips to really interesting places. A custom-made Nihon-to (samurai sword).

Well, even without that kind of money I'm not doing to badly in the fun department. One of the first things I noticed on my return to America after a long absence was that the price of toys for the big boys has come done a lot in the past decade. Not to mention all the stuff that just flat didn't exist when I was a kid. How about a model rocket that not only flies real high and parachutes back - it takes a durn digital picture at the apogee! And it was less than $50 at Wal-Mart! I can hardly wait for my son to be old enough for me to buy him one. I may even let him play with it.

My family and I like to take long trips by car, which is not terribly expensive even with current gas prices. If you stay off the Interstates motels are a lot cheaper and when the weather is decent we like to pack a tent. Ours is a $35 Wal-Mart cheapie, though we're thinking about investing in a really cool tent with two rooms, screened porch and closet, a folding apartment really. Price, less than $100.

Years ago I noticed that in America, a skilled workingman can usually afford, with some sacrifice and an understanding wife, one expensive hobby. A hobby such as: Harley riding, SCUBA diving, skydiving, hot air ballooning, sailing, windsurfing, a yearly pilgrimage to Graceland etc. A rich man can afford two. The late Malcolm Forbes was an enthusiastic Harley rider and hot air balloonist. But nobody can really afford three at the same time, because now the constraint is not money but time. Starting with the time necessary to get good at something worthwhile.

And speaking of getting good at something, I just got a new cool toy. I bought an atalatl on eBay.

"A WHAT?" (I hear you say.)

An atalatl is mankinds oldest, or second oldest missile weapon. (It's either that or a sling - and slings being made of grass or leather, don't preserve very well for archeologists to find.) An atalatl is a dart thrower, a wooden piece about as long as your forearm with a spur at the back to fit into a notch in the end of a 5-6 foot feathered dart.

Rather than attempt to describe it and its use further, go here to THE atalatl site on the Web (and I mean, THE site) http://www.thunderbirdatlatl.com/

There is something deliciously primieval about flinging an atalatl, even though I'm not at all certain that I could hit a mammoth (which would answer for the proverbial "broad side of a barn") yet.

My wife thinks it's really cool and wants to try it. My son regularly demands that we go out and fling it - and it's made him the envy of his playmates. He's too small to use it, but he loves to chase after the darts and bring them back. This is a jewel beyond price for a parent, a passtime that wears the kid out more than the father!

The range and accuracy is significantly less than a bow, but the equipment is a lot cheaper and doesn't require a special place. A reasonably-sized field will do.

I got the cheapest atalatl (half-price on EBay) and three darts with field points. But already I'm starting to think about how my accuracy might be improved with a weighted back end or a dart rest on the front...


  • At 3:07 PM, Blogger The hooded thug on the corner said…

    Hmmm. the atalatl looks cute but if you pointed one at a Mammoth it would probably stamp you pretty good before you got a chance to reload. Smaller game I reckon.

  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    No, large game brought down by a mob of guys with these things. The archeological evidence seems to indicate that early man killed off the really big animals with things like this - and then had to invent bows to go after the smaller more agile critturs.


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