Playing Adult-mania
WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2015 - 10:00am

If ever we wondered what the world would look like if our four- to 14-year-old children took over,  just bring them to KidZania at Bonifacio Global City and watch how they would probably make a better job of running the world than we do!

The overriding concept of this newly opened haven for young kids is role-playing. And unlike the games that the children will play on mobile devices or their PlayStations (where they turn into bloodthirsty commandos or fighter pilots), these roles are rooted in reality — the everyday world we adults live in, and the kids observe from a distance. While this “distance” is one created by virtue of their very status as “innocents,” their not having to eke out a living, in KidZania, they’re given an opportunity to choose from a gamut of professions they encounter in everyday life, and better appreciate how the real world functions — how some basic products and services they may take for granted, actually arrive at our doorsteps and involve people taking on particular occupations.

Firemen, bakers, ice cream makers, bankers, supermarket operators, commercial airline pilots and cabin crew, broadsheet reporters, delivery system operators, news anchors and cameramen, doctors and veterinarians — they are just some of the professions our children can get their proverbial feet wet in, at KidZania. And I loved how in the case of Cebu Pacific’s simulated flight crew module, they didn’t entertain stereotyping, as the young girls could opt to be pilots if that was their heart’s desire.

Upon entering KidZania, each child is given a specific amount of cash, and while certain “adventures” require them to “pay” — as in the opportunity to go building-climbing at the SKY Cable booth, other displays offer “employment,” as in the case of the LBC office, where efficient delivery of cartons meant a daily wage of KidZania money that could either be spent at the KidZania store or deposited in your account at the BPI KidZania branch, for use when you return. Observing the children there on the day I visited, I noticed how some took to the idea of “earning” right away, wanting to amass income that they could deposit and seeking the stations that afforded that opportunity, and not just heading to the displays where they would “spend” — our future tycoons?

I know there were some parents amused by the overt “branding” that exists within the venue, but how far is that from the reality we face every day? Besides, given the concept of the theme park, this was the opportunity taken by companies to participate, and formed part of the initial strategy in setting up and financing the costs of setting up the theme park. And a little historical fact here, did you know that the It’s a Small World ride at Disneyland was originally commissioned by Pepsi for the 1964 New York World’s Fair? Walt Disney was commissioned to produce four of the major corporate pavilions that rose during the fair, and it was only after the fair closed that Disney brought the ride back to Anaheim, where it has since become a mainstay of every Disney theme park all over the globe. Part then of a legacy of economic realities when creating parks of this magnitude, and I for one, could see the children weren’t bothered, as it truly mirrored the reality they face outside the park.

KidZania is children playing grown up within an environment that fosters interactivity and respect for particular values that we adults would do well to better appreciate ourselves.



Literature by the pound

While these three novels come as weighty hard-bound editions — capable of tipping one into the “excess weight” category if being taken on a trip — you can’t fault them for gifting you with truly enthralling tales with writing worth their weight in gold.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (available at National Book Store) This novel firmly brings us back into Mitchell territory: the multi-strand narratives that skip over place and time, and the brilliant painting of characters we get enthralled by. In the last third of the book, there’s even uncharted territory, a storyline that comes straight out of graphic novels. The “radio people” we encountered flitting in and out of the narratives, and recruiting and taking over people’s minds and bodies, turn out to have rival factions — a la the rival mutants in X-Men. There’s teenage runaway Holly, arrogant Cambridge student Hugo, fading author Crispin — to name some of the highly entertaining personages that populate this tale, and likewise impinge on each others’ unique “novellas.” Absorbing tale, and I loved the dystopian future Mitchell paints in the last chapter.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (available at National Book Store) Shafer takes the nightmares and conspiracy theories we may have about our digital age, about information and privacy; and turns them into a sci-fi mystery that has us crisscrossing the globe. We start off with Leila working for an NGO in Myanmar, then we are introduced to Leo, a Seattle pre-school teacher with deep psychological issues, and finally Mark, a sham self-help author who has been befriended by the head of one of the largest global telcos. When Leila stumbles upon the work of the shadowy committee in Myanmar and starts asking questions, she sets in motion a series of incidents that unintentionally, bring our three protagonists together. With brisk action, and a very disturbing storyline, here is a techno-thriller that satisfies  paranoia in the digital age gets a new face in this novel.

The Quick by Lauren Owen (available at National Book Store) What starts off as a Gothic mystery/thriller quickly escalates into a vampire tale that turns Victorian London into a hothouse of undead, vampire hunters and the Quick (the vampire term for ordinary humans — used in an ironic manner, as in “not Quick enough”). Charlotte and James are siblings living in an old Yorkshire mansion, pretty much left in the care of their governess and staff as father is always away after the death of their mother. When James leaves for further education and then decides to live in London to pursue a literary career, he falls into the orbit of one Christopher Paige. What follows is a forbidden romance, then initiation via The Exchange into the London demimonde. Charlotte coming to rescue James makes for the second half of this entertaining story.

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