Modern Colors for Modern Times

MARK SIMON

September 09, 1992|By MARK SIMON

Palo Alto, California. -- The start of any school year is a big time for the Crayola company, of course, as millions, probably billions, of crayons come rolling off the assembly line and are marched into those funny rectangular boxes with the flip top.

This is the time of year Crayola always anticipates for its major breakthroughs, and this year is no exception, the crayon giant having announced last week a new box of politically correct crayons.

(As a politically correct aside, is it a coincidence that Marlboro hard-pack cigarettes come with the same flip top as the Crayola box? Is it coincidence that there is a profound similarity of shape and packaging between cigarettes and crayons?

(Perhaps the official leadership, as a natural adjunct to anti-smoking ordinances, should contemplate a ban on crayons and, perhaps, all things shaped like cigarettes, so as to end this insidious brainwashing of our youth.)

Anyway, all across America, new orange Crayola boxes with the distinctive green trim are being opened by preschoolers and kindergartners.

Actually, the box probably isn't orange with green trim. It's probably Spanish ocher. Or helianthin. The green is probably corbeau or Montpellier green. The thesaurus lists 47 different orange colors and pigments and 78 for green. This explains some of the oddball names that appear on the wrapper of the crayons.

This also may explain why it's so hard to find a red crayon, when in manufacturing a red crayon, you also have to choose between Adrianople red and vermilionette.

Interestingly, sienna turns up as a pigment in red, brown and orange. I think sienna better get with the program and find a home before word gets around that it's so fickle. Nobody likes a two-timing color.

The newest development in crayons, as I mentioned, is an assortment of Crayola crayons called ''My World Colors.''

According to Crayola officials, this is a box containing colors for hair, skin and eyes that include something other than blonde and blue -- apricot, black, burnt orange, burnt sienna (this has always been a favorite of mine), cerulean, goldenrod, mahogany, olive green, peach, periwinkle, raw sienna (oh, that fickle sienna), salmon, sepia, silver, tan and white (the worst crayon).

The new ''My World Colors'' are, according to Mark J. O'Brien, spokesman for Binney and Smith, parent company of Crayola, ''very now and contemporary.''

The new box of crayons is meant to reflect ethnic diversity, so when a child has to draw a portrait of his family, he has colors that more adequately illustrate who he is.

This is pretty funny. Crayola for many years had a crayon called flesh that illustrated the flesh of no living creature I have ever met.

Anyway, I have no problem if Crayola decides to express a little more sensitivity to the diversity of colors that live in our world. Well, I have one problem. If the crayon people are going to push for colors that more adequately reflect the diversity of life, then, once again, they have failed to truly push the crayon envelope.

So, as a helping gesture, let me suggest a few colors Crayola can work on for next year.

''Envy Green Crayon'' -- This is the color you want your BMW painted when the main reason you buy it is so the neighbors will see it.

''Madonna Hair Crayon'' -- This is in keeping with Crayola's desire to be ''now and contemporary. It changes color whenever Madonna changes her hair color.

''Michael Jackson Crayon'' -- This changes from black to white, and the tip of the crayon constantly reshapes itself.

''Attitude Crayon'' -- This would be like all the perfume commercials on television. It would be used only to draw images that are utterly incomprehensible.

''Righteous Blue Nose Crayon'' -- A stirring shade favored by conservative Republicans.

''Hot Liberal'' -- A variation of pink for those whose politics lean to the left.

''Bill Clinton Crayon'' -- For the candidate who wants to be all things to all people. It would draw the color plaid.

''George Bush Crayon'' -- For the candidate who doesn't really know what he wants to be. It would draw the color invisible.

Mark Simon is a columnist for the Peninsula Times Tribune of Palo Alto, California

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