Come On Down

There is already a lot of talk about the 2010 elections. Will the Democrats lose their majority? Will Republicans get more unified by then? Will there be a reappearance of the dreaded chad? With all this talk about Congressional elections, an important ballot measure is being lost in the fog of partisan politics. Next year, Denver voters will be asked to approve the establishment of an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission. No, this is not about members of Congress having affairs in space (although all bets are off if there are motels out there). This is about creating a mood in Denver that would welcome beings from outer space to the Mile High City.

The ballot measure, which got the required number of signatures, is the idea of Denver's Jeff Peckman who describes himself as "an entrepreneur." That's not the word that everyone is using to describe him. In his defense, his initiative doesn't claim that extraterrestrials definitely exist. He's just saying that if they do exist, we should be friendly to them.

At the same time that there is this "take an alien to lunch" attitude going on, space travel is becoming more and more of a reality. Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Everything, recently said that he'll have a spacecraft ready to start commercial flights in 2011 or 2012. There won't be an economy class on this craft. A ticket will cost $200,000 for a 2 1/2 hour flight about 60 miles above Earth.

I know what you're thinking: nobody's going to pay that kind of money. Think again. So far, about 300 people have put down $40 million in deposits to guarantee a seat on this spaceship.

"Space funerals" are also becoming more and more popular. One Houston company takes the ashes of hundreds of people at a time into space. If we really want a friendly relationship with extraterrestrials, I don't think dumping the ashes of dead people in their neighborhood is the best approach.

But I do think having a friendly, welcoming attitude towards beings from outer space is a nice idea if they ever visit us. In most science fiction movies, they're perceived as enemies rather than friends. They're often characterized as beings who are trying to take things that are important to us -- our water, our air, our minds. This is somewhat ironic, because people who are in favor of our traveling to other worlds often feel that it could be a great opportunity for us to find alternative fuels, bring back clean water, or dump our garbage. In other words, we would do to them the very things that the "evil aliens" in those movies do on earth. Maybe they're just trying to beat us to the punch.

Mr. Peckman believes those who live millions of miles away from us are very intelligent. This is also a common element of many science fiction stories and movies. I've often wondered, why are these beings generally thought of as so smart? Aren't they just as likely to be dumb? Maybe they'd land on earth and barely be able to speak. Maybe they'd decide to go for a drive in the middle of rush hour. Maybe they'd go to a high school reunion


going on a diet.

But smart or dumb, I agree with Peckman that we should plan on being good hosts. However, there is one group which is quite outspoken in their negative reaction to Peckman's initiative. This group that feels the proposal is unnecessary and rather silly is the Colorado state chapter of MUFON. On the off chance that you are unfamiliar with MUFON, it stands for the Mutual UFO Network. So, those who are serious about UFO's think this "be nice to extraterrestrials" idea is ridiculous. Maybe people who believe in werewolves laugh at those who believe in vampires.

There's probably another group that wouldn't be enthusiastic about the proposal. I don't think they'd be hospitable if aliens from another planet dropped in on us for a visit. I can just imagine their rhetoric: "I'm not against legal extraterrestrials, but those illegals have no place here. Those Martians who sneak into our atmosphere are taking jobs away from Americans."

Toying WIth Us

'Tis the season to get stressed out shopping for toys and games, so I thought I'd help reduce some of that strain. Reading this should make your trips to the toy store shorter and your visits to the holiday medicine cabinet less frequent.

If toys were capable of having an ambition, they would all want to be inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame. But not every toy can get into the Hall which is located in Rochester, New York. If they didn't have stringent requirements, toys like chattering teeth and the Home Version of the Judge Judy Show would be in the hallowed Hall. In the 11 years that the Hall of Fame has been in existence, only 44 toys have made the cut. This year, the Big Wheel, the Gameboy, and -- hold on to your Silly Putty -- the wheel. That's right. Considered one of the first and greatest inventions, the wheel had been neglected until this year. Even though it certainly deserves recognition -- the stick and the ball were inducted earlier -- I doubt that many of you will be buying a wheel for your favorite tot.

Kids might love having a wheel just as toddlers love playing with the box that toys come in. However, advertising and peer pressure aren't going to allow those simple things to be popular gifts. Let's just say that I don't think Toys 'R Us is going to have a run on wheels this year. Below are some categories of toys that probably will be selling well. You decide if you think any of them will end up in the Toy Hall of Fame.

Games That You Really Don't Have To Buy Because When I Was A Kid You Could Have Them For Free

These include things like Battleship, Jotto, and Pictionary. I actually saw a Tic-Tac-Toe game selling for $19.95. I wonder how much they charge for a box of hide and seek.

Toys That Make Sure Kids Don't Play like We Used To

These toys contribute to the couch potato generation. There is a snowball launcher so children won't have to actually throw snowballs themselves. Also in this category are all kinds of video and computer games, and of course the extremely popular Wii. The Wii allows the entire family to pretend to play all kinds of games in their living room that they could be playing for real outside.

You've Got To Be Kidding Toys

Leading off this category is the Pump Action Marshmallow Blaster. This ridiculous waste of food and money is capable of shooting marshmallows a distance of 40 feet. Unfortunately, there is no literature with this toy that explains why anyone would want to shoot marshmallows a distance of 40 feet. A trivia game with one of the most unfortunate names is called, "Beat the Parents." I hope that none of the kids out there try to combine their "Beat the Parents" game with this year's toy Medieval Axe. And don't worry, toy stores will be selling everything that has to do with "New Moon," a charming story about vampires.

"Hot" Toys For 2009

When I say, "hot toy," I don't mean something like the classic Easy Bake Oven (a member of the Hall of Fame). A very popular toy this year is the Zhu Zhu pet hamster. Kids have always loved hamsters. Of course, since this is 2009, these cute little hamsters are battery operated. For a treat, do you feed them artificial bugs? According to those who claim to know, the Toy Of the Year may turn out to be various versions of Bakugan. In case you're like me and have been sleeping under a rock – hey, remember the Pet Rock? -- Bakugans are toy warriors that are tucked into spheres and then rolled out onto a game card. It might not sound like fun to you, but they just may make kids forget the remote controlled tarantula.

So, which toy or toys do you think will be in the Toy Hall of Fame someday? It's hard to predict. However, if I were in the in the toy business, I think I would be trying to patent and package a game called, "tag." And no, it's not in the Hall of Fame yet.