While driving to and from Providence, Rhode Island, last week, we passed an array of enormous windmills located on Route 12 in upstate New York. These giants, each about 320 feet tall — the height of London’s Big Ben — are part of the 195 windmills forming the Maple Ridge Wind Farm. This generating operation produces some 320 megawatts, currently three-quarters of New York State’s wind-power capacity.
These things are huge. One alone would be impressive: to see fifteen or twenty turning together (all that were visible from the highway) had an undeniable impact. They resembled nothing so much as an army of invading aliens towering over the landscape. Or giant wind-up toys …
Which brings me to Z Windups, from California Creations. Z Windups makes the coolest wind-ups I have ever seen, including Larry the Dancing Robot, a cool green dude whose dance repertoire includes bobbing from side to side and doing the splits! Or how about Zoom, a walking camera whose eye moves, whose magnifier moves up and down, and whose lens spins?
The appeal of wind-up toys is obvious, with no toxic batteries to buy, discard, or worry about. These particular wind-ups are not recommended for children under the age of three years, since they may have small pieces that could be broken off and ingested or inhaled, but for older children and adults they are amusing and inexpensive novelties. The improved engineering and precision manufacturing of the intricate plastic gears and parts over the past twenty-five years has meant that good-quality wind-up toys, like those from Z Windups, last a long time with proper care. The use of translucent plastic in the toys’ manufacture allows fascinated kids and adults to see the tiny gears, cams, and other working parts inside the toy as it performs.
Look for a quirky assortment of these to land in the store in the weeks ahead, priced around $5.99.