REMARKS 12/31/03

Last modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 3:54 PM

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I feel obliged to do a "Year In Review" message, but my short list of projects this year really says it all: Instead of making dolls, I did other stuff.

Yes, I played a lot of guitar this year, and spent a lot of money on guitar stuff. I discovered that I don't have the interest in playing music with other people that I once had-- even though it's still fun, I seem to be less patient with the hassles of getting together to jam and I don't like committing to a regular routine of getting together for it. That's probably a good thing, considering the amount of beer that gets consumed at such events and the dangers of driving while really fucked up (in the old days, it was safer to drive while blitzed and stoned). Instead, I've resigned myself to playing along to the canned accompaniment of a Boss Jamstation. While it doesn't provide a fraction of the high or entertainment that playing with real people does, it does know how to keep a beat, doesn't forget parts or get bored and doesn't bum cigarettes. Best of all, it's always ready to go, and can be turned off when I get bored. But practice, practice, practice... it never ends. This go round, I listened to some killer Country guitarists, including the local whiz, Redd Volkaert, and on disc; Albert Lee, and Danny Gatton (more Jazz, actually). I picked up some good chops from them, challenged myself with hybrid picking and banjo rolls, and actually felt that I'd made some headway at better "feeling" where notes are on the fretboard. On a few good days, I felt that I did a credible job keeping up with some Jazz progressions... on the bad days, I really stank. The high of feeling really connected and "on" is incredible-- I just wish it happened more regularly and predictably.

A good part of my interest in guitar is in the gear itself. I've probably spent more money on guitar stuff in six months than I've spent in my whole life on 1:6 stuff; It's a lot of kewl stuff that I wish I had back when I was really playing. And I did get to dust off an old hobby of mine-- customizing with a soldering iron. Unfortunately, there's only a limited amount of that you can do because it's practical and goal-oriented, and it can get awfully expensive buying things to work on.

It was only a matter of time before my attention returned to doll-making. The main attraction for me is that it's project-oriented, instead of performance-oriented. I can immerse myself as heavily as I want, and since these are artistic, not practical/functional creations, there's really no point at which they're ever "finished". The work schedule and artistic decisions are determined solely by me, and I can't blame anyone else for when things don't work out. Finally, the activity (usually) produces incremental and positive progress, and the results of a project are tangible. When completed, the project can be compared to other projects, and each one contributes to the overall "world" that's created whenever two or more doll "characters" congregate. The representation becomes more than just a collection of objects: It invites us to use our imagination to explore, see possibilities, and create stories. It's a participatory form of storytelling-- instead of being fed a story, the viewer gets as much or as little as their imagination is willing to work. I believe that I enjoy that aspect as much as any other, and I've had fun fretting over which new characters to add to expand the storytelling possibilities.

Although I like other genres, the fantasy "Brass Bras and Jockstraps" genre has held my attention the longest because of its unique characteristics. It accommodates an exaggerated breadth of character types, which is telegraphed in their physical appearance. This is perfect for the medium of doll-making, where information is conveyed in static 3-D poses and not dialog or actions. Fantasy is unchained from Reality, and therefore stuff doesn't have to be realistic, logical, practical, or even make sense. This opens up a world of things that are fun to make, like brass bras and fat devil women with wings. The technological milieu of this genre allows a wide range of individualistic costuming that employs an equally wide variety of production techniques and materials. This makes the design and production work diverse and interesting. In addition, the artifacts and clothing are acceptable when crude, unsophisticated, and "homemade" in appearance-- this happens to mirror exactly the kind of stuff that I can competently produce.

In addition to not making much in 1:6 this year, I really didn't buy much in 1:6 either. I bought and reviewed a few things at the beginning of the year, and most recently bought a few things to see what was new and exciting-- Dragon's "Soldat", and Takara/BBI's version 2 Cy Girl . These are great products, but not really innovative enough for me to be interested in doing reviews of them. The "Soldat" concept is really over-the-top in small stuff that you could lose and extra stuff to store... if you dared to remove it from the packaging. What a concept! The box-ish display happens to stack very compactly in my closet... Takara's made some solid improvements with their rendition of v2 Cy Girl , while keeping the appeal of the original. To me, it just shows how BBI botched the job in their attempt with the "Perfect Body" figures (no, not really interested in PB2s). I think that this illustrates the delicate balance between form & function in dolls, and a reasonable way to handle it. Screwing with a well-conceived figure and giving it lousy articulation is a dumb thing to do-- and then adding insult to injury by turning it into a caricature of itself with balloon-sized boobs... Sheesh. I almost forgot-- I bought one of Hasbro's 40th Anniversary reissues for purely nostalgic reasons (my first Joe was a Marine). Since the packaging was its unique feature, it too was assigned to closet display.

You can tell that figure purchases aren't a real exciting event for me these days... Even though there's lots of superb, kewl stuff being produced nowadays-- more so than ever before --I've really found that almost all of my enjoyment in the hobby comes from heavily reconfiguring a stock fodder figure. While it's nice to have good fodder, that's not always desirable since it may remove some of the motivation necessary for you radically alter it to what you want, versus accepting what's provided with some minor changes. I believe that's significant-- it's the work that defines who we are and gives us a sense of fulfillment, not what we buy. Unless we find reasons to make stuff, those talents will atrophy or never have a chance to develop.

I feel fortunate to have been interested in arts & crafts at a time before hoards of adult toy collectors roamed the aisles, and at a time when toy manufacturers weren't very detail-conscious. Finding the motivation to improve what was available was easy, and I learned a lot. As I discovered from customizing Star Wars figures (a long time ago), once Hasbro began providing variety and improving their detailing, my involvement in that hobby seemed pointless-- I could just buy their figures. For the sake of the enjoyment that I get from this hobby, I selfishly hope that isn't repeated in the 1:6 scale hobby. To an extent, I've circled my wagons by retreating into subject matter that would probably be too scandalous for a respectable company to produce... but ya never know, in this day & age. (Gawd, I'm starting to sound like a Conservative!)

Anyway, onward through the fog and into the Future... Happy New Year 2004!

Jimbobwan, 12/31/03

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