I’m a big Lego fan. I grew up with it. I have memories being three, going with another little 3-year old boy into the bathroom, turning off the lights, and turning on the lego lamp in the little lego house we built.
Later, at nine, I optet to buy lego instead of candy on some Saturdays. This time my then 3 – year old brother got a hold of it, and stuck it in the wall outlet right in front of my mother. It burned out, and my brother is now 48 and the trade of a burned out new lego lamp for continuous presence of my brother is just a non-contest. (Just around that time, the son of one of the big Swedish comedians, actually the brother of the man who would grow up to be the director of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, stuck something in the wall, and died. Evidently a long drawn out death. I was not aware of that then, but my parents were, and we were all grateful that the lego lamp took one for my brother).
Even in my teens, I would build lego cities and lego houses. I always toyed with the idea of getting some lego, although the price has always been such that one does not frivolously get a kit.
Which is the advantage of having kids.
Four years ago, around this time, I was running up on turning 50. Which, well, is a milestone. I have never liked being coy around my age because I found it silly and limiting, and it wasn’t so much the thought of getting old, but more the thought that there weren’t endless time ahead of me anymore. But, as one of my colleagues said, consider the alternative. I rather leave a shriveled up, wrinkly, well lived corpse than die young.
But, it was kind of a rough spring. I didn’t get the doctoral student I had hoped for accepted. I seemed mired in teaching and child breakfasts, with research languishing. I actually ended up at the hospital’s neurology department after experiencing a week of dizziness and half-body tingliness. It was kind of interesting having the neurologists doing just noticeable difference tests on all sorts of body parts (I noticed them all. Of course, they didn’t really shield my vision, but I don’t think that did it. Evidently I’m just fine now 4 years later). I didn’t have to do the MRI, which I first thought would be fun, and then dreaded the closer I got to it. .
My older son, Wolfie, was approaching 6. That spring he got into Bionicles. I’d buy them for him. His best friend David would get some new ones. I’d get him into playing the games on the Lego Site. Then he and David would re-build them into things like waterbuffalos, or dragons, or new version Bionicles.
For this particular series, the Phantoka – a set of Toa who had the ability to fly – Lego put out this video with a really cool song. Yes, I was completely taken by a damned commercial song for a story made by my favorite toy maker, and as a consequence (along with Wolfies love for them), I started looking up info about Bionicles. I found out they had come up with an entire mythology, with the Matoran (everyday populations) and the Toa (heroes), and Makuta, the nemesis. At first, I felt, well, the feeling of excitement wasn’t new, it was the fact that I was feeling it as I was approaching 50, with 3 kids and a career. Like I really ought to be more staid, less exciteable, more…. I don’t know, acting my age. Plus, this was Lego’s initiative once they realized how successful the licencing of Star Wars was. Why not create our own story? Ooooh, commercial manipulation. But, you know, the commercial impulse can create great, resonating stuff. I mean, what was Star Wars but commercial? Here we had people coming up with an entire universe surrounding lego figures, and you could get the figures to re-create it. Out of the possibly crass can come the sublime!
I did get into it. We had a bionicle birthday party for Wolife (I drew a picture of Toa Lewa for his welcome poster). I bought Jaller and Pohatu and Barraki Pridak. And Antroz and Icarax of the Makuta (the enemies). They still live in my office. My kids (or visiting kids) can play with them, but they can’t rebuild them into other things. (I checked my essentialist senses when it came to my kids bionicles, because, well Lego. Lego are meant to be repurposed and creatively changed).
I used Jaller for my Intro to theory of science course. Not as effectively as I wanted the first time. I wanted to illustrate reductionism. Is Jaller just a bunch of pieces of lego? What if I take Jaller apart, and then re-build him into a water-buffalo? Is it Jaller? Is it a water buffalo? Is it a set of pieces of lego?*
Now, the Bionicles series is gone. It ended just a season after the Phantoka that captured all of our imagination. They are replaced by Hero Factory, which look very much like Bionicles (the building pieces are exchangeable). Today, I bought both my sons 3 new ones. And, then I looked up that Bionicle song and played it for them on You tube.
And, yes, this entire post is more or less an excuse to link in Gravity Hurts. The Phantoka themes song. I still think it kicks ass!
*My son actually did make a water buffalo out of bionicle pieces. When I told him I thought it was very cool –because it was, it really looked like one, he just dismissed it, because, well, he had just looked at a picture of a water buffalo to build it.