Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Toy stores, ahoy!

"No, I don't need a gift receipt," is starting to become a mantra for me. While it's still weird to go into a toy store and shop for myself, I'm getting used to the idea because it is happening with greater frequency.

On the other hand, I could never leave home. I could be like Sandy Bullock in "The Net," and get my LEGO sets from and my Domino's pizza off my TiVo; but sometimes you want to pick up the box and see what you're buying before swiping your credit card.

I snagged the LEGO Pirates Shipwreck Hideout yesterday, which to the delight of my wife features a lady pirate. But with a trap door and shooting cannon, who can't find inspiration in this new set?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Channel your inner minifig

I've always been fashion forward, there is nothing I can do about the fact that the world sees fit to emulate my style trends. And so I am pleased to show off the latest item in my wardrobe.

A gift from my wife, it doesn't get much cooler than a t-shirt that turns your torso into that of a minifigure. On Saturday night, I rocked the red spaceman t-shirt, albeit under a tacky Christmas sweater for a party designed around that very theme.

I attempted to keep my facial expressions bare of emotion in an attempt to mimic the minifig head, but it's harder to be devoid of emotion than one might think.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Feel the rhythm

Feel the rhyme. Get on's bobsled time. There are few mornings spent as well as catching the last 30 minutes of "Cool Runnings," on TBS.

The delightfully dated, slightly fictionalized story of the first Jamaican bobsled team is the inspiration for today's build. I limited myself to a bucket of the parts that were in front of me, which included a few interesting plates and tiles, but was mostly 1x's.

The result is a LEGO minimalist's bobsled that is three studs wide and meant to evoke the idea of a bobsled, rather than be an exact replica. A jumper tile acts as the nosecone while the runners are 1x2 plates with an edge (those used to make running boards on cars or gutters on roofs). It's probably 20 pieces total and while I wouldn't sell it as a Creator set, I think it is at least recognizable (as long as I am standing there to tell people it's a bobsled).

Friday, November 21, 2008

All set

When I used to buy a set, I would always build it. And then it would be up for display to remind me of a building technique or just because I liked the way it looked. Slowly over time I began to scavenge pieces from the sets, although I always looked to take a piece from the back or somewhere out of the way when possible. But I told myself I wouldn't destroy the set, I only needed a white 1x 2 tile or a few jumper tiles to help me try something new.

But then I stopped building sets and just started taking pieces directly from the bags to use on my own creations. I would flip through the instructions to see what could be built and how pieces were being layered, but I wouldn't actually snap the parts together.

Finally, I gave up on sets for a while and just began buying bulk brick online or hitting up local garage sales. But with Christmas and Hanukkah around the corner, I'm kind of excited to begin building sets again, there's something about opening and playing with a new toy during the holidays.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

If Stephen King played with LEGO

Today is a short entry that covers what might happen if author Stephen King decided to write about little plastic bricks. I've been flipping through the pages of The Stand and like a catchy bit of music, I felt compelled to get King's style out of my system. Below is my interpretation of his version of playing with LEGO bricks.

The LEGO man sat in quiet contemplation outside the gas station, his arm dangling out the window of the massive black Chevy. A single drop of blood fell from his fingers to the pavement making a wet smacking noise as the tendril of a plant sucked it up hungrily. A soft sigh escaped his lips as the radio emitted short static bursts instead of Jerry's Morning Zoo-Case.

It was only a matter of time before the dogs would come, they would be the first to turn. A single howl broke the heat haze that had settled in downtown Hannibal, Missouri, and the LEGO man absentmindedly patted the shotgun on his lap. He was about to find out that it didn't have a single shell loaded. Not a one.

The Photo is of Christine, the maniacal car, by Azaghal Gabilzaramul.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Paul Walker's fault

One day, you're a fully functioning adult with a decent job and the ability to shave. But suddenly you wake up and you've been watching Eight Below for the better part of an hour while making a LEGO mosaic. Even worse, you feel the need to pause the second best sled dog movie of all time (I've always been partial to Jack London) to grab a drink and stretch a bit.

As you're sorting through pieces, hoping to find a cheese wedge or longer slope to match the odd lots that you have in tiny piles; you're just praying that all those poor dogs make it through the cold, barren winter.

It used to be I just watched terrible action movies when my wife was out of town. Fast and the Furious or Faster and the Furiouser- really any Paul Walker (Varsity Blues, The Skulls, Into The Blue- so many made-for-men classics) would do. I'd grab Chinese takeout and have a bachelor's night that was bad for my heart and brain. But now, it's the middle of the day and nobody's out of town. I'd like to blame Paul Walker, but it's not his fault that TBS shows his movies as often as Hoosiers or Con Air.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A man is only as good as his shelf

It is an odd moment in your life when you get excited about finding the right shelving unit. But a Saturday trip to Costco provided the most excitement the Bender household has seen in a long time.

In the office aisle, a simple metallic structure with laminate shelving that can be stacked or arranged in an L-shape, was waiting. My wife and I hauled it into the base of our cart. For the better part of 45 minutes I poorly maneuvered the shopping cart around the concrete floor of the warehouse retailer slamming into the corners of aisles.

Kate and I heaved it out of the car and I carried it up piecemeal up the stairs. It's laying in pieces in the spare bedroom as the cat inspects what she hopes is an elaborate cat bed. Now, I just have to figure out how to put this thing together. If only I'd spent the last eight months working to improve my spatial thinking...

Friday, November 14, 2008

What is it?

Here's a sneak peak at the latest Bender MOC, I'll give you three guesses and a few hints. The first hint is that it a vignette, although you're not seeing all of the pieces that will be included. The second hint is to see the previous blog entry. The third hint is that you're actually seeing the view from outside the room where the action takes place.

Figured it out yet? Probably not. I'll post more pictures this weekend and add a link, assuming the sun ever comes out in Missouri so I can take my homemade light box and store bought tripod out into the driveway. I will then lay down on the concrete like a crazy man to get you the photos you need to solve this puzzle. I am sure you will not be able to relax until it is solved. So get out your sleuthing hats, all you Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys out there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dino to build

My latest project involves the guy to my left. I've loved dinosaurs since I was a kid. So after finding a light up Tyrannosaurus Rex at LEGOLAND Billund, it was a no-brainer that he would be bought.

He's sat on my shelf for the past two months guarding my books and a stuffed animal that bears his likeness. But now I think it's time for him to shine in his own MOC.

The scale on this guy is crazy, so I would expect something slightly oversized. I guess at the end of the day that means I will have to purchase more LEGO bricks because I obviously couldn't have enough right now. To the Bricklink store, Robin...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Skynet comes to Kansas City

I don't want to alarm you, but it's likely that the robot uprising has begun. Because I found this little guy hiding atop my dresser, apparently having traveled all the way from Bellaire, OH, in a pair of jeans badly in need of washing.

No bigger than my hand, but possessing horns as imposing as those of Hellboy, he was a formidable opponent. I've managed to clutch him in my hand as you see here, but we're locked in a death struggle- I am unable to crush him and he is unable to break free. We are as caught as a stick in an alligator's mouth. I've managed to type off this missive one-handed as I search for a brick separator, in an attempt to gain the upper hand.

So take the appropriate precautions to defend yourself against our would-be mechanical overlords. I'd write more, but everybody knows robots control the Internet.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One mechanized hoagie coming up

LEGO and I continue to be pen pals. And by pen pals, I mean I send them money and, in return, they send me publications and sets in the mail. The latest is the Star Wars battle tank- the monthly installment from my BrickMaster membership. It's a mechanized hoagie rolling on hubcaps, which means it looks cool from certain angles and entirely too boxy from others.

But I'm evolving as a builder. I've learned to outsource the smaller projects so I have time to focus on the larger things I'm hoping to build. The tank you see pictured here was contracted my wife. It takes about one "My Name is Earl" episode to put together (minus the commercials, courtesy of TiVo). I may outsource in the future, it depends on the size of the invoice I receive.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thinking about LEGO bricks

I'm one-sixth of a lawyer. It's a joke my wife and I both love to tell, rather than say I attended a single semester of law school.

One of the things you learn as one-sixth of a lawyer is that you're being trained to think in a very different manner in the legal profession in order to attempt to find interesting ways to defend your client or apply the law in an advantageous manner. I'm beginning to notice that my thought patterns are similarly changing in regard to LEGO. The challenge and fun aspect of building with bricks is to figure out how to turn them into an unexpected shape or sculpture- something that other people haven't thought possible.

I've begun to purchase storage bins with as much frequency as LEGO bricks, and to delight in figuring out how to repurpose storage intended for other products. When Target had a recent discount sale on Halloween candy- I was excited (not by the candy), but by the extreme discount on candy tubs. The reusable plastic tubs will be perfect for holding bulk brick and smaller candy cases will be right for those random elements or accessories (shovels, specialty bricks).

Photo by pabojon.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The LEGO gene?

I think Kevin Smith (the director of Clerks, Mallrats) plays with LEGO bricks. And if he doesn't he should. Those were my first two thoughts today.

It's part of a game I've been playing recently where I wonder who might have the hidden desire to play with LEGO bricks inside their adult frame. A recessive play gene that just needs a bit of inspiration to cause a grown man to max out his credit card at Toys R' Us. For Smith, I think it would be the Star Wars sets. He's a confessed Star Wars junkie, and those sets have been one of the main reasons people have given me when I ask about why they came out of the Dark Ages.

So, do you look at people and wonder if they might play with LEGO bricks? And if so, are there any traits (other than a proclivity towards engineering) that might line up with adult fans?

Photo by rockies.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Your daily newsgroups

You don't realize how newsgroups and user groups resemble oral histories of a culture. With threads that include everything from civil discourse to extreme name calling, it's a fascinating look into people's behavior online and in relation to each other.

I've been pouring through the old newsgroups of adult fans of LEGO and Lugnet as part of my historical research into the beginning of the adult fan community. And I've found, in as much as there are the typical trolls and flame wars that mark any discussion on the Internet, there are also just as many pleas for people to find a way to communicate online. This is a community founded by people searching for fellow fans and excited for the chance to get to share what they love: LEGO.

But as someone who remembers AOL dial-up and how bulletin boards led to the world of social media that satures us today, it's interesting to read as people strived to figure out how to form relationships within the constraints of burgeoning technology. As for Hagrid, he just wants to find people who enjoy taking care of magical creatures and understand that buying a dragon egg from a guy in a bar is nothing to get worked up about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Go ahead, charge it.

When I thought of impulse buys, I used to think of gum or a trashy magazine featuring celebrities in unflattering photos.

My impulse buys were $5.99 DVDs (Coming to America, Hoosiers, Snakes on a Plane come to mind) or drinks with odd flavors (step away from the Coke with Lime). But lately my impulse buys have been coming in $20 increments.

If a store sells LEGO sets, I have an impulse to buy them. It can be the same sets I've seen at every other store this season, but if I feel like I need more of a given color or a particular minifig or wheels for custom cars, an impulse takes over and suddenly I've got another "business expense."

But when does impulse turn into compulsion? I started out writing about adult fans of LEGO, but when all is said and done, perhaps I'll just be writing the unintended sequel to Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Photo by Flavouz.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Spooky, Scary Halloween Exhibits

We held a Halloween party on Friday night, and it was the first time I've really had what I built out on display.

I was a bit nervous because the top of a bookshelf in our living room has all the small things I've built in the last six months, many of which I would rather not show to people. There is the first camel and truck that I've constructed next to a much cooler Zombie school bus. I guess I should have arranged everything chronologically, an exhibit about man's evolution in building with LEGO. The exhibit could have a sign that says "work in progress," as we have only evolved to the stage of man builds like KoKo the gorilla, she of sign language fame. Although that may be an insult to Koko, I have yet to see what she can do with a box of LEGO.

Ultimately I had nothing to worry about as people were interested and it sparked a number of conversations about what my guests built as kids and the sets they've admired as adults. Star Wars will be a big hit with kids of any age. So, the first showing went well, but I'm not ready to give up my job as a writer to become a museum curator...

Above is a quick Jack-o-Lantern I threw together, it can fit an unlit tea candle (as LEGO and fire don't mix) and is only mildly scary.