Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary Lucy & Ricky

67 years ago today, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reeves International Inc. Recalls Holiday Ornaments

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Reeves International Inc., of Pequannock, N.J., announced a voluntary recall of the 2006 Snow Princess Stirrup Ornaments, 2007 Holiday Stirrup Ornaments, 2007 Photo Frame Horse Shoe Ornaments due to violation of lead paint standard.

The 2006 Snow Princess Stirrup Ornament is a stirrup-shaped ornament with a white prancing horse and blue ribbons. “2006” is stamped on the rim of the ornament. The 2007 Wintersong Stirrup Ornament is a stirrup-shaped ornament with a grey horse with saddle bags with a horn and a violin. “2007” is stamped on the rim of the ornament. The 2007 Photo Frame Horse Shoe Ornament is a horse shoe shaped ornament with a brown horse with rider jumping over a gate. “Happy Holiday 2007” is printed on the back of the ornament. The recalled ornaments were sold at various retailers nationwide, including JC Penney catalog and Web site, from July 2006 through October 2007 for between $15 and $18.

Consumers should immediately stop using these ornaments and return them to the store where purchased for a full refund or contact Reeves International Inc. for a refund or exchange. For additional information, contact Reeves International Inc. at (800) 444-4775 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit their Web site at to receive instructions for returning the ornaments.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Remember when you left your house and went to an arcade to play video games? I know, so last millennium. One of my favorite arcade games from yesteryear makes it's Wii debut this week with Cruis'n (Wii) racing into stores tomorrow. At the other end of the gaming galaxy is a new title for the DS, which is as hypnotic to watch as it is fun to play - Geometry Wars: Galaxies (DS), from Sierra, is a fast-paced, spacey, shooter reminiscent of older arcade titles.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week.

Nintendo DS
Chicken Hunter
Geometry Wars: Galaxies
Impossible Mission
Master of Illusion

Nintendo GBA
The Bee Game
Enchanted: Once Upon Andalasia

Nintendo Wii
Cranium Kabookii
Game Party
History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey
History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
Shadowgrounds Survivor
Speedball 2 - Tournament
The Tuttles Madcap Misadventures: Starlight Starbright Charity Challenge
Deal Or No Deal: Secret Vault Games


Xbox 360
History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
Omega Five

J. McKinney

Happy Cyber Monday

For many of us, today is the day we return to work after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Even those that don't work are usually returning to their regular schedules today. So we want to say, "Welcome back"! We hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

For the past few years, the Monday following Thanksgiving has been called Cyber Monday as many people return to work and schedules that place them back on the Internet where they do a lot of shopping. If you prefer to go Online rather than stand in line for your holiday gift purchases you will be happy to hear that this year, many online retailers are offering free shipping regardless of how much you spend.

With many consumers keeping a more careful watch on their holiday spending we were wondering how this year's busiest day of shopping, Black Friday, performed. Apparently, most retail stores saw larger than expected sales figures for the day but had to provide deeper than usual discounts to achieve those numbers. There is a great article written by Michael Barbaro, in today's Business section of The New York Times with all the facts and figures for this past Friday. You can read it now by clicking here.

So did you head to the stores last Friday or will you be shopping Online today?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Time to Shop...We Hope

It's two days before Thanksgiving, and, to put it mildly, there's a bit of concern in toyland. The season is late getting started, for one. Blame warm weather. Blame the fact that where I am in San Diego this morning, regular gas is averaging about $3.52 a gallon. Blame the mortgage crisis, or the fact that despite the happy noises TV money guys are making about 2 percent inflation as being not so bad, where it really hits the family in gas and groceries, prices are skyrocketing.

But don't blame the recalls. Last week a highly publicized poll from Harris Interactive indicated that consumers won't buy Chinese toys, but that's an unrealistic poll. Did they talk to parents? Of the 2,500-plus adults, how many of them are engaged in complex negotiations with the North Pole? We don't know. This is the kind of polling that is driven by PR rather than a real need to find information.

Now, in store checks around the nation over the past couple of weeks, we find that people are buying, but not in holiday quantities yet. They are aware of recalls, but the majority of our, admittedly unscientific, interview subjects said that the desire to support Santa's mission trumps country of origin concerns.

But for all the polls, projections and prognostications, the fact of the matter is: nobody really knows.

One thing we do know is that the season has been slow to start. And that may signal a trend. Costco had its Christmas decorations up just after the back to school season, and parents were not pleased. According to many whom we interviewed, they felt that pushing the season so early shortchanged kids by not allowing the sequence of the year to unfold in a way that made sense for kids. Several shoppers used the word "desensitized" when referring to killing the holiday buzz. Ironically, that's the same word many psychologists use describing kids' relationship to violence in video games. Good or bad, it seems, over-exposure inures us to response.

So, having deadened the desired holiday response, retailers are scrambling to throw change-ups and make consumers think that the season is really starting. Our favorite so far: Wal-Mart wants two Fridays in the week. According to Marketing Daily, the retailer has petitioned to create a second "official" Friday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Well, they're getting publicity, even from our little blog, but you've got to be kidding me.

Can't blame them for trying, I suppose.

But at the end of the day, we think that the pendulum is starting to swing back. We'd love to pretend it's that people are starting to get control of their spending and thinking long and hard about consumerism and the holidays. But that's not very likely. Instead, as the first Clinton campaign so aptly said, "It's the economy, stupid."

You may be buying less, and from all indications from retailers we've spoken to, that's the fear. There are products people put a lot of faith in and money behind, and they're being left on the shelf in droves, despite all kinds of marketing. Still, remember it's your holiday to do with as you want. Take the time to make your family and the experiences of the holidays your central motivation, not the products. No matter what you do, do what you can support and what feels right to you. Remember, you're in control, not the marketing folks.

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

I'm still trying to catch up on all the titles released over the past few weeks so I'm not too disappointed to see that this week is a little quiet on the new game front. That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of great titles debuting this week and with a long weekend coming up, the more video games the better.

I'm looking forward to spending some time with Mario Party and Godzilla: Unleashed Double Smashed, both for the DS. Also worth pointing out, Link's Crossbow Training is a free minigame that comes with the Wii Zapper. Sports fans of all ages will love College Hoops 2K8 (multiple platforms) and Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Burning Earth is out for the 360 this week.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week.

Nintendo DS
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Godzilla: Unleashed Double Smashed
Mario Party DS

Nintendo Wii
Ghost Squad
Link's Crossbow Training
Monster Jam
Soul Calibur Legends

Cabela's Monster Bass
College Hoops 2K8
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns
Godzilla: Unleashed
History Channel: Battle For the Pacific

College Hoops 2K8
Medal of Honor: Airborne
Rock Band
Soldier of Fortune: Payback
Time Crisis 4

Xbox 360
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Burning Earth
College Hoops 2K8
Mass Effect
Rock Band

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

-J. McKinney

Thursday, November 15, 2007

For That Hard to Shop For Person on Your List

With the holidays approaching you might find yourself wondering what to get the Star Wars fan on your list who already has everything. Well look no further than the Chewbacca Backpack!

This plush and totally awesome backpack is approx 30" from foot to top of head and has enough room in the pouch to carry books, a small laptop, or even the entire DVD collection of the Star Wars saga. The Chewbacca Backpack is available at Think Geek for $39.99.

- J. McKinney

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Over the past few weeks I've mentioned the deluge of games arriving every week in time for the holidays. This week really takes the cake as there are more than 60 games scheduled to arrive in stores over the next few days.

I've been trying to meet with as many game publishers and developers as possible for previews and have combed through this week's list to bring you the following list of our picks for the best titles due this week. To make things a little easier for you, I've separated the list by platform.


Nintendo DS
Baby Pals
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends
Ultimate Mortal Kombat
WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008
Word Jong

Nintendo Wii
Rayman Raving Rabbids 2
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis
Super Mario Galaxy
Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Xbox 360
Assassin's Creed
BlackSite: Area 51
Need for Speed ProStreet
Popcap Arcade Volume 1

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Monster Jam
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW 2008

Assassin's Creed
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Need for Speed ProStreet
WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Sonic Rivals 2

Everquest II: Rise of Kunark
Ghost in the Sheet
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
SimCity Societies

-J. McKinney

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Curious George Plush Dolls Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Marvel Toys, of New York, N.Y., announced a voluntary recall of Curious George Plush Dolls.

This recall involves Curious George 12-inch plush dolls with a plastic face sold at toy and discount department stores nationwide from December 2005 through August 2007 for about $15. The dolls are dressed to represent five various themes: birthday, fireman, sweet dreams, tool time and tool time with a soft face. The plush dolls were sold with a Curious George storybook or activity book. The following product and SKU numbers are printed on the packaging.

Birthday 90253/ 8-83199-90253-5
Fireman 90246/ 8-83199-90246-7
Sweet Dreams 90247/ 8-83199-90247-4
Tool Time 90251/ 8-83199-90251-1
Tool Time (soft face) 90251/ 8-83199-90251-1

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Marvel Toys to receive a full refund. For additional information, contact Marvel Toys at (800) 352-2064 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spin Master Recalls Aqua Dots

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Spin Master, of Toronto, Canada, announced a voluntary recall of Aqua Dots. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The recalled toy is a craft kit which allows children to create various multi-dimensional designs using small colored beads. The beads fuse together when sprayed with water. The recall applies to all models of Aqua Dots, sold at mass merchandisers nationwide from April 2007 through November 2007 for between $17 and $30. The product is available in various different kits with accessories such as a drying fan, applicator pen, design templates for the beads, and spray bottle. The product is labeled for ages 4+.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toy away from children and contact Spin Master for refund information. For additional information, contact Spin Master at (800) 622-8339 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

It's getting difficult to keep up with all the fantastic games arriving in stores every week. I had a great jam session over the weekend with Guitar Hero 3 (look for a full review on soon) and am gearing up for a marathon session this week with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii). I also need to keep some time open for Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Xbox360, PS3, Wii, DS).

This week, there are several great titles for young gamers, including Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves The Mermaids (DS), Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue (DS), Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour (Wii), Horse Life (DS), and Power Rangers: Super Legends (PS2, PC, GC).

Following is our list of picks for the best games due this week:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am/PS2
Bee Movie Game/Wii
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War/Xbox360, PS3
Bratz 4 Real/DS
Build-A-Bear Workshop/DS
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare/Xbox360, PS3, PC, DS
Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves The Mermaids/DS
Fire Embelm: Radiant Dawn/Wii
Gears of War/PC
Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue/DS
Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour/Wii
Horse Life/DS
Hot Wheels: Beat That!/DS
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga/Xbox360, PS3, Wii, DS
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games/Wii
Power Rangers: Super Legends/PS2, PC, GC
Silent Hill: Origins/PSP
The Simpsons Game/PSP
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Beginning of Destiny/PS2

- J. McKinney

Friday, November 02, 2007

Galaxy Warriors Toy Figures Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Henry Gordy International Inc., of Plainfield, N.J., announced a voluntary recall of Galaxy Warriors Toy Figures.

The posable spaceman figures are about 4½-inches tall and come with two accessories. They were sold in various colors including yellow, grey, silver, blue, green, gold, black, and red at Family Dollar Stores nationwide from January 2006 through October 2007 for about $1.

Consumers should take the recalled toys away from children immediately and return the toy to the firm for a full refund plus postage. For additional information, contact Henry Gordy International toll-free at (888) 790-2700 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.