Saturday, June 19, 2004

Of all the goony things I do: Playing Dungeons and Dragons, reading comic books, going to science fiction conventions... by far, the gooniest is collecting Dungeons and Dragons brand pvc miniatures.

It is gooniest because it is the most passive. No interpretation is required from me. I simply open the boxes, and admire. Or not.

As a hobby, it doesn't even have the saving grace of industry, which unpainted lead or pewter miniatures have. If you need to paint your own, you can at least point to effort, and possibly mastery of craft, to somewhat justify the paltriness of your habit. Not me.

DND minis are sometimes pretty little toys, but because they are mass produced, they are sometimes not. Boxes are randomly sorted, and the figurines are divided by rarity, which adds to their collectibility. It is the randomness that interests me: rooting around in a box for god knows what little creatures. Will it be a pretty one? Ruby bought me a mixed case for my birthday. I open them one or two at a time in the mornings, which reminds me of digging around in a cereal box for toys. That was always an event for me because my parents didn't want me coked up on sugared cereals.

Instead, I got coked up on science fiction and caffeine. Hopped up on goofballs, as a friend used to say.

I opened a box with a large red dragon in it - my rare for the box. It was a lovely toy. The next box I opened had a rare Gauth, of which I already owned two. Some people would say: Three Gauth's! What a lucky bastard! While I would welcome a third red dragon, I have so little use for two Gauth's that three was something of a disappointment.

The agony, and the ecstasy. It makes for an exciting morning. The act of discovery is part of the reason I enjoy the minis so much. Probably the passivity is another: I do so much for myself, it is nice to be a pure spectator sometimes.

To my recollection, this particular escapist genre has never been so liberally manufactured and marketed. When I was a kid it was science fiction toys, spurred by the Star Wars figures. Really, except for a little collection of action figures based of the Dungeons and Dragons television show, Epic fantasmagorical fantasy has never had it this good. There are some other sets out there right now, specifically designed for children. But although they look fun, they aren't so pretty as this set, designed primarily for adult collectors. In my heart of hearts, I am a Prospero.

Unlike many of my geek peers, I didn't collect toys until these came about. Although I have seen many super-hero action figures that would have made me drool as a child (how I longed for good superhero action figures as a kid), they've never really captured my attention in the same way that these little toys do. Were I more energetic, I would be inspired to create little dioramas from them. Each little man or creature has implications. They tickle greedy little stories sleeping in my head.

Reading: Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. Because I am a jerk, and analytical by nature, I found that her introduction was a little too avid and self-promoting for my tastes. I tend to think of child care books as being in the same vein as self help books: everybody's got an axe to grind, and if given a format in which to grind it, will grind it to nothing. Unlike self-help books, I feel I need to read child care books. Nothing is as mystifying as deciphering the needs of a pre-logical proto-intellect. I can use all the help I get, and so regularly strip-mine my co-workers for ideas. I feel irresponsible if I do not consult the experts.

After rooting around amongst all the over-generalizations, I am finding Ms. Kurcinka's book is very interesting for a couple of reasons. It discusses individual personality traits in fairly exact chunks, and encourages taking them seriously for what they are rather than what we would like them to be. It looks at concepts like Extroverted and Introverted personalities, and talks about how they work in the world and how you can work with and channel them as opposed to how you can change them.

I actually think Raising Your Spirited Child is a pragmatic way to think about personality types in adults as well as children. Ms. Kurcinka conflates a lot of personality traits that don't necessarily have to be in order to create a pseudo-classification or syndrome: the spirited child. But she does think about each trait in exact ways that allow the reader to mine her thoughts for clues about how to live with people, children and adults, who have those traits, or how to live in the world if you have them.

No comments: