Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wanna buy a monkey?

Sometimes you just need a LEGO fix. So over lunch today I went to get a monkey.

Set 4916, at 77 pieces, is a Creator Mini Animal 3-in-1. The main build is a monkey, a fierce little tan and brown cartoony guy. He's all hinges and jumpers- a lot of really neat pieces for such a small model. If you need a little monkey in your life, he's not a bad choice.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shane Battier is so "LEGO"

I'm good at doling out nicknames. It's a skill I've been blessed with and a power I wield carefully. Because a bad nickname can have a way with sticking someone and defining them more than you realize.

So with the power of nicknames in mind, it was interesting to read Moneyball author Michael Lewis' piece in The New York Times Magazine about NBA player Shane Battier. Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, has a nickname for Battier, and it's a doozy.

"I call him Lego,” Morey says. “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together. And everything that leads to winning that you can get to through intellect instead of innate ability, Shane excels in. I’ll bet he’s in the hundredth percentile of every category.”

I've just known him from his days at Duke as a guy who was good at taking a charge. Sadly, he was not one of the NBA players to be minifig-ized back in 2003. Maybe Shane will make the next go round, if they ever go back into production.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Here's to Zack, he's the Mack

Anybody remember Zack the LEGO maniac? It was one of the defining commercials of the 1980's for me.

It featured Zach, who had a seemingly endless number of LEGO bricks and a catchy rap that was perhaps only trumped by McDonald's "all beef patties," song (I can't believe McDonald's once sent out a promotion on a record. And that record was in your Sunday newspaper. Going back in time just makes you feel old).

"He loves to fit, he loves to stack, yes construction is his knack." They don't make rhymes like that any more.

Photo by Buffalo 305.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A pirate's life for me

It only seems appropriate that LEGO pirates are guarding the bar in our dining room these days. Who better to watch over the wine glasses and liquor than a bunch of pirates with a cannon and traps amid a secret hideaway?

Shipwreck Hideout
was a quick build- the ribs of the ship are really well done. The minifigs are the real draw for this set- a whole crew of pirates to go with Captain Brickbeard with various stubble, missing hands, legs, and female minifig hair.

Nice to see the Pirates theme make a comeback, I'm glad to have them on my side.

Photo by Joriel "Joz" Jimenez.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The morality of mustaches

It's get to know my favorite minifig of the day: one Johnny Thunder. The hero of the Adventurers line (which ran from 1998 to 2003), Mr. Thunder features an uneven mustache and a knotted red handkerchief around his neck. With a tan shirt that is open a few buttons, Johnny Thunder certainly looks ready for adventure.

In his travels through Egypt, the Amazon, Dino Island, and the Orient Expedition- he was always accompanied by Dr. Kilroy, a pith-helmeted professor, and Pippin Reed, an aspiring journalist with her camera at the ready.

Johnny Thunder's nemesis is Baron Von Barron- a LEGO minifig with a hook for a left hand, a monocle for a right eye, an aviator's helmet, and a symmetrical mustache. The LEGO lesson for today: don't trust the guy with a perfectly manicured mustache.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Almost warm enough for a convertible

Writing about LEGO and reading about LEGO have something in common- both make you really want to build with LEGO.

And so the Cool Convertible, a Christmas gift to Kate from me, was cracked out last night. The 648-piece Creator set is a sweet white convertible with a roof that opens and closes and a hood that pops up to reveal a "V8 engine."

It's Kate's set, so she's the lead builder on this project. I settled down for an evening of acting as brick monkey, tracking down the parts she needed and regrettably watching "Beerfest," (the movie my dad and I took my brother to for our PG-13 bachelor party). When Kate asked for a piece, I worked on building her part vocabulary, testing her on "washing machines," and "cheese wedges." It turns out to be nearly as fun to help somebody else play with LEGO as it is to build yourself.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Meanwhile, back at the farm

I'm kind of excited for LEGO's new farm sets. While I understand that may be expected based on my current geographic proximity to Kansas (we're 10 houses from the State Line, appropriately named State Line Road), I think it also has to do with being curious about the actual workings of a farm.

This past fall, I went to my first working farm while staying outside Hutchinson, Kansas, where the Kansas State Fair is held annually. In the morning I was playing on the rug with the farmer's son, who was showing me his collection of toy farm machines. He taught me how to use a thresher and tractor properly by dragging them across the rug. I also had put the front of a combine on backwards, which I think would have caused serious issues in real life.

Since I don't think I'll be getting behind the wheel of a life-size thresher soon, at least I can imagine it with the new farm sets.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Like taking toys from a child

Today, I looked at the Technic Off-Roader that has taken up semi-permanent residence on top of the elliptical machine and felt a bit guilty. I rarely build with Technic pieces and if I do, it's just a few bricks or pins.

So with the exception of doing the alternate build on the box- a dune buggy on steroids, I'm not sure the set is going to get much use beyond some headlight demonstrations.

I've asked adult fans of LEGO if they ever feel guilty about the collections they have amassed and the answer has usually been a very quick "No." For some, that's because they have children who play with LEGO. For others, it is simply a matter of supply and demand. They can afford LEGO and the company will make more sets. I still haven't resolved my feelings on the matter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I love New York

I don't often link from here, but some creations are just too good to pass up. Christopher Niemann's blog, Abstract City, on The New York Times' website, is one of the things I miss about living in New York. Thankfully, the Internet still works in Kansas City.

On Monday, he put up a series of LEGO creations with hilarious captions about places, people, and common occurrences in the metro area. Each of his pictures features a simple LEGO model that asks the reader to use his/her imagination to fill in the details. He breaks a New York City cab, coffee, and Metro card down to their basic brick essence.

In Niemann's world, a cab is basically a square on top of a rectangle with a thin rectangle to show if it's empty or occupied. It's a fun way to spend a few minutes enjoying the sights without actually going to Manhattan. And it's just further proof that you don't need to have a lot of LEGO bricks to make something truly unique.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Leave no set unfinished

Unfinished LEGO sets are like unfinished books- I have difficulty moving on to the next one if the half-finished one in front of me is truly interesting.

However, even ordinary LEGO sets have a distinct advantage over the airport paperbacks of the world- they will compel you to completion. There is something in LEGO sets that drives you to achieve as much as possible in a sitting. It could be the numbered steps/pages or the innate quality of stacking that is being relived. Or it might be as simple as building with LEGO is fun.

So, the solution to having unfinished sets appears to be easy. Either buy smaller sets or just devote more of the day to building with LEGO.

Photo by freezelight.