Measure of how jaded we've become...

FOR A DEPRESSING

January 21, 1995

FOR A DEPRESSING measure of how jaded we've become, consider the lowly POG. That's the new game craze among kids that gets its name from the passion-fruit-orange-guava drink bottle caps in Hawaii where the game originated 70 years ago.

Having finally made its way to the mainland, POG "slamming" is a '90s version of what baseball cards once were to baby boomers -- before baseball cards became investment-grade commodities. POGs are cardboard caps the size of silver dollars with pictures of cartoon characters, company logos, athletes or pop stars that kids flip, trade and collect.

POGs are usually described as "low tech." In fact, the media seems to have a perverse fascination with the pastime, sort of a "can you believe kids are playing this?"

Such backhanded praise is understandable in a world where retailers stop selling toy guns because of their use in holdups; where water guns get filled with bleach to maim; where TV shows get blamed for "inciting violence"; where computer games need movie-type ratings, and where empty candy vials become the container of choice among crack dealers. If things so innocuous can be associated with evil, what must be the ulterior motive in a game of flipping cardboard discs?

POG does seem innocent, and more sociable than the insular computer games that are so popular. But the suspicion that accompanies the POG trend is another signpost pointing toward the end of innocence.

* * *

nTC LET IT NOT be said that humor has disappeared from Congress with the advent of a Republican majority.

At a news conference the other day, called to brag about the speed with which the Republicans are working, there was a partisan jab at Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, who was slowing passage of another Republican measure.

There followed this bit of byplay, courtesy of Federal News Service:

House Speaker Newt Gingrich: . . . [T]he fact is we passed that rule the opening day, we passed that bill the opening day, with Sen. [Bob] Dole's leadership in the Senate, which has a slightly different rhythm and style. We've -- (laughter) -- is that a fair summary?

Sen. Dole: We don't have any rhythm -- no rhythm at all. Yes. (Laughter.) . . .

Rep. Dick Armey: . . . May I just for a minute -- I can't resist the opportunity to observe that with respect to the whole question of the Senate's rhythm, it appears as though Senator Byrd thinks it's the rhythm method -- as an effort to stop anything from being conceived.

Now, I thought it was funnier than that -- (laughter) -- and I did have a complaint about the press being humorless, you just verified that.

Rep. Christopher Shays: I didn't laugh, either. (Laughter.)

And we thought vaudeville was dead.

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