The Architecture of Life: SANTA CLAUS VS GODZILLA

The Architecture of Life - Christopher K. Travis

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Editors note: I hesitated to post this story on my blog. After all, for the most part, I am trying to promote what I consider a new and important approach to design that is related to my two "day jobs" - that being running an architecture firm and an Internet start-up.

But I live another less than secret life as a writer and the publisher of a small regional humor and commentary quarterly that comes from a tiny town in Texas with a population of 77. I overcame my better instincts this holiday season and decided to risk my credibility - such that it is - by posting this story which I ran in the Winter issue of my goofy quarterly.

Why! Well it makes a good point - and I think it's funny! But then of course, I would.


Transcript of International
Toy Ethics Conference

The following is a transcript of the opening session of the first International Toy Ethics Conference. The conference was held in Round Top on November 8 and 9 in the Round Top Town Hall.

Many powerful and famous individuals from the toy & entertainment industries met here to discuss issues related to the sale of violent video games, “war” toys and other products marketed to children that have been criticized as promoting “violent behavior.” Such products and their effects on children were discussed by two groups representing opposing views on the subject.

This transcript begins as the event’s chair - classic television star Howdy Doody - is introducing a group of blue-ribbon panelists who will begin the discussion.


Chairman Doody - Howdy folks. If you’ll just find a seat, we’ll see if we can get this thing rolling. I want to thank you all for attending this event, the very first International Toy Ethics Conference. (applause)

Today we are gathered for a historic discussion on the subject of violence in the lives of children. One way or another, all of us in this room make our living by appealing to children.

They are our customers. We all know, without them, we are out of business.

These days, our customers are requesting increasingly violent toys and programming. Many concerned people believe that we in the toy and entertainment industries should play a role in limiting this trend.

Some say that we are promoting and inciting violent behavior in our customers by providing these goods and services.

Others - including many here tonight - think that market forces should determine the toys we make and the programs we air.

That’s what we are here to discuss...and without further ado, I want to introduce a group of people that I am proud to say represent the finest minds in our business. We are honored to have these folks on this beginning panel.

In order to assure a balanced presentation of the issues, we’ve created two teams, one comprised of people who favor industry controls on violent toys and programming, (raucous cheers) and one team who oppose such controls (hoots and boos).

First, the team leader for the pro-controls team, a man that needs no introduction - the Chairman of North Pole Enterprises, the biggest toy distributor in the world - Mr. S. Claus. (applause and cheers)

Next, someone close to our hearts, the grand dame of gingham, the original rags to riches story...Raggedy Ann! (hoots and claps)

Third, a beloved star of television and film, the immortal Lassie. (woofs and barks)

Fourth, every little girl’s dream, the best dressed doll in show business... Barbie! (whistles and cat calls)

Now, on the other side of the table, the team leader for the anti-controls team, a tough guy that is famous around the world, the King of Mean, the Baddest of the Bad, Mr. Destruction....G. I. Joe! (hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot, hoot)

G. I. Joe - Okay that’s enough...I said THAT’S ENOUGH! (silence)

Chairman Doody - Thanks big guy. They love you. Next, a classic film star, an actor who, perhaps more than any other one individual, brought random violence into children’s programming, the furious fuhrer of the Three Stooges... Moe! (Squeal... whooooboo boo boo)


Chairman Doody - Ha! Ha! Those crazy guys. They just never quit do they?

Next, an unparalleled method actor, the Duke of Down, the Sultan of Splat...Wiley Coyote!

Wiley Coyote - (ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssSPLAT !)

Chariman Doody - Thanks for dropping by good buddy.

Last but far from least, an incredibly big star and the founding father of the Japanese film industry.This guy will really let you know what he thinks... a real fire breather... Godzilla! (GOD-ZIL-AAAH! GOD-ZIL-AAH! GOD-ZIL-AHH!)

G. I. Joe - Okay Zilla, cool your troops.

Godzilla - ROAR! (Flame spurts out of his mouth, singeing the facial hair of the attendees in the first three rows.)

Chairman Doody - Wooo big fella, I thought you were going to give up smoking... (laughter)

Heh....heh. Okay, that’s enough kidding around. Let’s get busy.

The format for tonight’s discussion is as follows; each team leader will be allowed to make a three minute introductory statement defending his team’s point of view. Then, the panel will begin an open discussion on the issues.

We drew straws to determine the first speaker and G. I. Joe won. He has chosen to speak following Mr. Claus’ opening statement.

So, without further delay, I give you Mr. Santa Claus.

Santa - Hello friends. I’m happy to be here and happy to have the opportunity to speak about this important subject. You know, I always tell children that they better not pout and they better not cry but that’s pretty hard to do when someone has just taken the top of your head off with a STAR WARS GENERAL GRIEVOUS BLASTER. (laughter)

Ho! Ho! Ho! Just a little toy violence humor. But seriously folks, children today face an increasingly violent environment and that’s nothing to be jolly about.

The news reports are full of crime in the streets. The most popular video games like Street Fighter, Doom, and Grand Theft Auto are highly violent...blood gushing everywhere, limbs being cut off, wholesale carnage!

On television, children’s programming is full of violent confrontations between artificially muscled warriors, dripping with weapons blasting each other to oblivion.

No offense meant to our friend Joe here, but I ask you. Are these the toys you think we should give the good little boys and girls?

Here are some startling figures folks. Did you know that the average American household has 2.4 television sets? An average 2-5 year old watches 28 hours of television a week. In Britain it’s up to almost 35 hours a week.

Now on those televisions, violent acts occur an average of 8 to 12 times an hour and up to 20 times an hour during children’s programming. The average child will see 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence by the end of elementary school.

Now maybe you think this isn’t having any effect on kids, but according to studies on television violence, an astounding 66% of children’s programs contain violence…and in over 70% of violent portrayals on television, the perpetrators go unpunished.

One long-term study documented the effects in a small Canadian town that did not acquire television until 1973. Researchers found that children’s rates of aggression, including hitting, pushing and biting, increased by a remarkable 160% two years after television was introduced into their homes.

Talk about bad little boys and girls... Sounds like there’s going to be a run on coal if this keeps up much longer. (random chuckling)

Between 1955 and the 1990’s, homicide rates in the U.S. more than doubled from 4.5 to 10 per 100,000 people. Every 92 seconds a person under the age of 20 dies from a gunshot wound.

Think about this. The primary cause of death from injury for American children under the age of 4 is homicide. During the last 20 years the rates of violent crime among younger American teens has grown 126%.

Now, that makes it pretty tough to have a Merry Christmas, especially if you live in the inner city.

You know, we have a few resources at the North Pole that are not available to the average person. I don’t mean to sound like Big Brother, but the truth is I know when you’ve been sleeping and I know when you’re awake. I know when you’ve been bad or good and I know when some kid’s greatest dream is to rip out his enemy’s heart with his bare hands in that Street Fighter video game.

For goodness sake! Is this what we want for our children?

I say it’s time for toy disarmament.

It’s time for toy gun control. It’s time to put the peace back in the Prince of Peace’s birthday.
It’s time...

Chairman Doody - Sorry Mr. Claus, but your time is up.

Santa - Okay Howdy. Thanks for giving me a chance to speak.

Chairman Doody - You’re welcome Santa. That was certainly a thought provoking talk. Next, we will hear G. I. Joe make the argument against controls on violent toys and programming. Mr. Joe.

G. I. Joe - At ease Doody.

All right troops listen up. You’ve heard the namby-pamby soft soap from the fat guy in the long johns, now it’s time for the straight poop, or perhaps in deference to our chairman here I ought to say the straight doody. (embarrassed laughter)

Just a joke, soldier. (Slaps the chairman on the back, knocking him to the floor) No hard feelings. But seriously folks. What are we talking about here? More government intervention from those nittering bureaucrats and politicians?

We all know those spineless weak sisters could never win a war if their worthless lives depended on it...and that’s what we’re talking about here, winning! That’s all that matters in the long run.

Sure, I heard all of the Mr. Bowl-Full-of-Jelly’s statistics but there’s another way of looking at those numbers.

I suggest to you that what we have here is the grandest military training program in all of history.We’re starting them young and honing their reflexes, sharpening their martial arts skills, training their killer instincts. Sure, there are a few casualties but that’s the cost of freedom!

Just suppose in the future, some aggressive foreign dictator wants to take over America?

What if some unexpected alien force from outside our solar system shows up and want to incubate their young in our brains? What if some dark, monolithic evil empire springs up that wants to subject us all to mind control?

Do you want to field a fighting force that grew up playing with a hacky sack or Toobers and Zots?

What are they going to do, build a cute little Berlin wall out of Legos with little child-safe guardhouses to keep the bad guys out?

Ha! Get real. Godzilla here would reduce the whole thing to radioactive plastic slag after one night of bad Mexican food.

No. It’s time to step up to the plate. We’ve got these kids just where we want them. Sure they’re scared, but that just makes ‘em lean and mean. They’re mad, but that’s what will give ’em the edge.

They want to kick some butt for America, raise that grand old flag over the smoking bodies of their enemies - oh, sorry Zilla - and of course, the flags of our smoking loyal allies.

Our war toys are creating the most effective fighting force in the world. Why? Because we have more televisions than anyone else and we should thank our lucky stars we do! Sure there’s violence on TV. Damn right!

In fact, if you ask me, I’m tired of these milk toast, wimp censors telling me and my commandos what kind of force we can use to fight evil on television.I think we need more television violence and more war toys to prepare our youth for the world to come, because...and I want you Joes out there to think about this...

Do you think we are the only one’s watching violent television? Do you think we are the only country in the world that is training it’s young for battle?

You think the terrorists and those bat-crazy suicide bombers aren’t watching the Teenage Ninja Turtles?

This whole thing is leading to war and ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE!

If these left-wing bleeding hearts have their way, we’ll all be under the thumb of the next nickel-ante backwoods dictator that gets a yearning for apple pie.

We need to get tough! We need more nukes. We need...

Chairman Doody - Uh, excuse me Joe but...

G. I. Joe - Don’t interrupt me soldier! I’ll rip your lungs out through your...oh, uh...As you were Doody. I’ll stand down.

Chairman Doody - Thank you G. I. Joe. Well, I’m sure we all enjoyed that passionate speech from America’s favorite action figure. Now, we enter the open discussion part of the evening.

Panelists, I’ve asked Zapp Luger - the Town Marshal of Round Top - to serve as our Sergeant-at-Arms during this discussion. Please raise your hands before speaking and have the courtesy not to interrupt.

(Editor's Note: Marshall Luger is 6.9' tall, 320 Pd's, and not a man to be trifled with. Among other exploits, he has beaten Jessie Ventura in a grudge match, and attacked 18 wheelers speeding through Round Top with a bazooka.)

I will recognize a speaker from one side and then, will choose someone from the other side for rebuttal. I’ll begin with Santa’s team. Uh...Ms. Raggedy Ann.

Raggedy Ann - Well gosh, I just think that we all shouldn’t fight. I mean hugging is better than mugging if you ask me.

Golly, when you fight, your cloth can get torn and the next thing you know your stuffing is falling out and then the little girl leaves you outside accidentally and you get all dirty and the next thing you know she doesn’t want you any more. (sob)

Then she gets a Barbie and you’re left in the back of the closet like you’re nothing...nothing! It’s just so sad! So terribly, terribly sad! (Waaaaah, sniff, sniff, Waaaaaah!)

Barbie - There, there. It’s all right dear. Little girls do grow up.

Raggedy Ann - Get your hands off me you cheap bimbo. Look at you! You’re not even soft. Who would want to hug a doll like you. A kid could get a stone bruise!

Chairman Doody - Well, uh while Ms. Ann is getting her emotions under control, we’ll hear from the other side. Let’s see, Wiley Coyote. Uh, excuse me Mr. Coyote, but what did you have in mind with that stick of dynamite? Marshal Luger, I think we have a point of order here.

Marshal Luger - We don’t allow no skinny varmints with explosives in the Town Hall mister so you and me are going to take a little trip down to the pokey. (He grabs the coyote by the scruff of the neck and drags him out of the Town Hall.)

Chairman Doody - Well, seeing as how Mr. Coyote is indisposed, we’ll hear a rebuttal from Moe.


Chairman Doody - Thank you for that reasoned response Mr. Stooge. Now from the other side... Miss Barbie.

Barbie - (sweetly) I know what. Let’s all plan a wedding.

G.I. Joe - Now we’re talkin’ baby. I can hardly wait for the honeymoon. (snickers lewdly and nudges Godzilla who rumbles suggestively.)

Barbie - Gosh Joe, I don’t think you have the right equipment for that mission.

G.I. Joe - Oh sure, bring that up you castrating b...

Barbie - What I was going to say was that maybe we could ...

Lassie - Woof!

Barbie - ...all work together some way and make a marriage of the minds. It’s like I’m always telling Ken...

Lassie - Woof! Woof!

Barbie - ...when he gets depressed. You know he has the same problem the commander here has and some times it gets him down. Anyway...

Lassie - Woof! Woof! Woof!

Chairman Doody - Uh, Marshall Luger, would you please open the door for Lassie. I think she has to answer a call from nature. Go ahead Barbie.

Barbie - Anyway, I always say that we ought to make love, not war. I mean if they would just make us anatomically correct I bet old Joe here would find another outlet for his aggression...

Raggedy Ann - God! You are such a floozy! Children don’t want disgusting little private parts on their dolls! You are so cheap and repulsive.

Barbie - (defensively) Well there’s nothing wrong with it! It’s a perfectly natural thing...

Chairman Doody - I think it’s time to bring this discussion back around to the subject at hand. Mr. Claus; G.I. Joe.., do you have any closing remarks?

G. I. Joe - Well first off, I don’t like this chippie’s insinuation that I’m not a man!

Sure, maybe I’m plastic but that doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. I may not go out in every port chasing skirts but it’s not always easy defending America against the various evil empires, mad geniuses and insectoid terrorists that show up every Saturday to destroy our way of life.

Sometimes I’m just not in the mood when I get off work.

And, if I like the company of my troops, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes I just want to spend time with my comrades...discussing some strategy... sitting around the fire...sipping a little chablis.

Chairman Doody - You know, I felt the same way about Buffalo Bob. He was such a great guy.

G. I. Joe - My men are so special to me!

Santa - Let it out big guy. It’s okay to be yourself.

G. I. Joe - Nobody understands how hard it is. I’ve never been good at talking to a woman.

When we get together, it just never seems to work out. They always seem to want something I can’t give them!

Godzilla - Joe, snap out of it! What are you talking about? You’re actin’ like some kind of a freakin’ wimp!

G. I. Joe - I can’t help it ‘Zilla. It’s all just too much. (sob)

Godzilla - Oh man! I can’t take this. I’m really gettin’ steamed. (smoke begins to escape from his nostrils.) Our big, tough hero Joe is nothin’ but a whining little sissy...a crybaby! I think I’m gonna hurl!

Santa - Now Godzilla, it’s okay if Joe wants to express his inner feelings. It’s healthy for...

Godzilla - Cram it, Claus!

Santa - (frowning) Lookin’ for sticks and rocks in the stocking this year froggie?

Godzilla - Is that a threat fat boy? And I am not a frog! Frogs are amphibians. I’m a reptile you overweight...

Chairman Doody - Now ladies and gentlemen, let’s be civil...

Godzilla - Shut up Doody or you’re toast!


Lassie - Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Marshall Luger - Sit down Mr. Stooge. Now, Mr. Godzilla, I can understand that you are a mite upset but here in Round Top we try to treat people civil...

Godzilla - Stuff it, cracker! If I want to hear from you I’ll go watch an old Dukes of Hazzard...

You’re on your way to a barbecue bubba, and guess who’s gonna be the main dish you redneck...ULP! (Zapp Luger collars Godzilla and hauls him out of the Town Hall by the scruff of the neck.)

Chairman Doody - Well, I must say, this has been a very stimulating evening. Perhaps we have not completely resolved the issues before us but I think we have touched on a number of important subjects.

Santa - Ho Ho! Ho! I think you’re right Howdy. You know I do just have one last thing to say before we adjourn...if that’s okay.

Chairman Doody - Sure Santa. What’s that?

Santa - You know, folks. It’s hard to be a good parent. When the child you love wants something, it’s just natural to try to get it for them. But think of it this way...say Junior wanted a small, fully armed nuclear warhead, or maybe even a stealth bomber with conventional weapons, would you give him that for Christmas?

I mean, one temper tantrum and the whole neighborhood is a wasteland.

I think we have to make choices with our children just like we try to make with countries that act like children. We took Saddam Hussein’s violent toys away from him didn’t we? I know a few ten-year-olds that make that poor dead dictator look like an angel.

So, let’s stop the imaginary killing now before it becomes the real thing...and one more thing. Merry Christmas to all and to all...a good night.

Chairman Doody - Thanks folks. See you at tomorrow’s session. And by the way, the mayor has asked us to go easy on the town’s toilet paper supply. There’s some kind of shortage.

Barbie - Say Santa. Think you’d like to get together later for a nightcap?

Santa - No dear. I don’t think Mrs. Claus would like that. Why don’t you try hitting on the stooge. I bet he’s available.

Barbie - Barf!

Raggedy Ann - Tramp!

Lassie - Woof!