Monday, August 31, 2009

In book news

Since there is a book attached to this blog, I think it's only proper to occasionally dedicate some virtual space to the latest with the book process.

First, the biggest and most exciting news. The book has a tentative publication date of May 10, 2010. This means it should be out in plenty of time for BrickWorld 2010, so get ready to be rocked Chicago.

The book is currently in production, which means that is being formatted and organized into the manuscript that will become the galleys that will become the book. This work is done by better and more-detail-oriented people than myself. I am glad these people exist.

In addition, some of my LEGO MOCs and I had a photo shoot for the book over the weekend. LEGO bricks are hard to shoot well, even with great tips. Unlike my daughter, my author photo will not be me in a diaper stretched out in a basket. We are all thankful for this development.

Photo by Oskay.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't commit that to memory

The facts that stick with you from elementary school often inspire the best cocktail party conversations. For example, Albert Einstein never bothered to remember phone numbers because he reasoned that anything that could be written down didn't need to be remembered. This was either an insightful look into memory from a genius or a crafty pick-up line -- you be the judge.

However, if a genius thought that our brain capacity was potentially limited and shouldn't be filled with extraneous information. I think of our brains like a computer, wherein the longer you have it, the more likely it is to move a bit slower. Alas, there is no Genius Bar in life.

All of which is why I was delighted to discover this morning that a LEGO Mindstorms robot has been designed that can solve Sudoku puzzles. This means, I no longer have to worry about cracking the mathematical equivalent of crossword puzzles and can instead focus on more fulfilling tasks, like the Jumble.

Photo by Kalingo English.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The word from BrickFair 2009

Another AFOL convention is in the books -- BrickFair came and went this past weekend in Washington D.C. A good place to view pictures is at Brick-Apocalypse, which has some of the finest buildings and vehicles from the con.

The Brothers Brick has a round-up of LEGO MOCs (my own creations), including an island display -- ArchipeLEGO -- which on name alone should be celebrated. One of the Geekdads at Wired was blown away by the LEGOpocalypse -- dreary renditions of a Cormac McCarthy-istic future. Among the Brickee (trophies for best in show) winners was the Panther Ausf G.

Sir Nadroj
has a photo and written account of attending his first convention. Sarah's LEGO offers a video of some of the robots in action at BrickFair. And Feed The Belly thinks about what's it like to attend a convention that appeals to kids without kids of your own.

Photo by Bill Ward.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Your proscrastination links for the day

Over the course of the day, I read a lot of LEGO-related blogs and news. The end result is that I either want to purchase or build with bricks.

In the interest of removing the middle man in an office chair, I wanted to point you in the direction of two recent additions to the LEGO blogosphere that I've come across this week.

Ask a LEGO Fan (via The Brothers Brick). Here are common sense answers to questions that the Internet has trouble answering. Ben Ellerman -- a recent selection for the LEGO Ambassador Program -- gives insight into opening and choosing LEGO sets.

The LEGO Experience Tour. A blog dedicated to the recently launched LEGO Experience Tour -- a traveling promotions tent that is heading to fairs and festivals across the country in the next two months. They just started posting, but have a full schedule of events.

[Image via manfrys]

Monday, August 24, 2009

The newest Brick Bender

To answer the questions of a few regular readers and to blow the minds of those just stopping here for the first time today -- the blog has been on hiatus for a great reason. My daughter Charlotte was born last Wednesday at 8:45 a.m.

We are all home -- Mom and daughter are both doing well. We have not yet entered the giggly phase of sleep deprivation, but I'm sure it's around the corner. For the next week, things will be spotty here, but after that I should be back in the swing of putting fingers to keyboard.

My wife and I are now officially counting down until we can purchase her DUPLO bricks. In the interim, I'll continue to buy LEGO sets and make sure that I keep them safe. I can not however guarantee that they'll remain in the box.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The world of custom sets

We live in a world of customization -- wherein you can have everything from the look to the actual function of a product changed to fit your needs. The only limitations tend to be time and money. It's like every customer has a personal research and development team waiting on standby for the order to come down the pipeline.

The world of adult fans of LEGO is no different -- in fact, it might even be slightly more advanced. You can get customized minifigs, weapons and stickers, but one of the quickest growing areas seems to be in customized sets. In addition to LEGO Factory, which offers you the opportunity to build a set using 3-D modeling software and then order the parts online, a number of LEGO builders have created custom kits with instructions and parts.

Brickmania (via Brothers Brick): A series of spy and war sets -- incredibly detailed tanks and fighter planes from WWI and WWII.

Mechanized Brick: In the same military vein, these kits would appeal to a history buff and LEGO fan.

Brick Brigade: LEGO Half-tracks and Tiger tanks, sensing a theme here yet?

Lionsgatemodels: This site sells a series of plans on compact disc, a number of town models to create a detailed layout.

Photo by Nich Archri.

Friday, August 14, 2009

LEGO and the mass audience

Conspiracy theorists pay attention. Here is your way to connect LEGO to a future world wherein the concept of a mass audience -- outside of LEGO fans -- doesn't exist.

In this new book, "The Chaos Scenario," Bob Garfield posits that marketing, media, and commerce will all be dramatically reinvented through digital technology. Instead of looking for consumers to listen to pitches, Garfield suggests that companies will need to listen to consumers -- what he dubs "listenomics."

And one of his primary examples is how the adult fan community helped inform and drive beta testing of the next generation of LEGO Mindstorms. By listening to fans and seeking out product testers, LEGO has demonstrated a model for success in an individualized world where people seem resistant to be grouped together.

I might suggest that Garfield is a bit late to the party, even if it's a party that he suggests is already over. The idea that LEGO is bringing people together isn't revolutionary -- it's been in place since two kids sat hunched over the first interlocking bricks more than 50 years ago.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Business cards for the large children that we secretly are...

Business cards are your chance to make a first or last impression -- it's always good to have something that is slightly cumbersome and interesting.

Since you likely won't have minifig business cards like some LEGO employees, you should consider making your own out of LEGO bricks.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has apparently put aside their nefarious world-dominating plans to post a tutorial on how to print water-slide decals onto LEGO business cards (via Make Magazine). The results look like a fun (if slightly costly) way to introduce yourself. Although depending on the style of pant you favor, you might be looking at carrying one card at a time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From brick films to brick on film

LEGO has gone Hollywood or Hollywood is LEGO crazy. Either way, the result is apparently going to be a LEGO movie according to Variety.

Although the project has been underway for more than a year, details on the plot are scarce. The only description has been "an action adventure set in a LEGO world." If the producers and writers are smart, they'll take inspiration from the thousands of brick films (stop-motion animation featuring LEGO minifigs and scenes) on YouTube.

For inspiration, they could check out this short piece starring a James Bond-esque minifig or Beast -- a tale of science gone horribly wrong. There have been a number of great movies on the small screen for years, it will be exciting to see what happens on the big screen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The couch and change

Why is it while cleaning out the couch cushions and underneath the furniture, the LEGO pieces you find are either the ones you needed six months ago or some of the most expensive per piece in a set?

It is as if the chrome and 1x1 elements have a magnetic attraction to the floor or small spaces -- sneaking away while being left to answer a phone call or take a break for dinner. They burrow down as though they were moles or power miners. A LEGO couch would solve the problem -- everything would be LEGO and thus, nothing could be lost.

The good news is that after the frustration comes the excitement that one feels when finding a set in the clearance aisle or a tub of LEGO bricks at a garage sale. It is the celebration of the unknown.

I wonder if this is aging in general. Mild annoyance at losing something you once knew quickly replaced by the happiness of rediscovery.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shopping for LEGO-inspired products

There is always a series of LEGO-inspired items available online. Some are knock-off bricks, others are worthy of being coveted. Below are a few examples of items I've stumbled across recently while avoiding more important tasks. I'll let you determine which I would buy and which are a bit perplexing.

LEGO brick candles -- It seems a shame that you would only use these once a year.

LEGO cross stitch of House. A minifig version of the surly TV doctor cross stitched into a wall display -- kind of seems like the definition of a niche market.

A custom minifig display stand. I would put my minifigs on display, if I didn't keep poaching them when I was building.

Skull belt buckle. This brick belt buckle needs to holding up a four-year-old's jeans in Texas.

A dozen LEGO cupcakes. It doesn't have to be your birthday for you to enjoy these, perhaps you'd like to top them with some brick candles?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Behold, the inside of a minifig

You thought you knew what was on the inside of minifigure. Some of you probably guessed that they were hollow -- in search of a heart like the tin man. Others, have reasoned that there is in plastic in there -- again, not a bad thought. But The Brothers Brick reveals the truth, without having to transform in a Inner Space -- Meet Dave -- Osmosis Jones -- type way.

The minifig is simply a smaller version of us. Inside that plastic coating, there's a tiny skeleton, bundles of nerves, and a whole mess of organs. Thus, it is best to store them in closed containers. It's easier to avoid the whole shoemaker's elves or Toy Story dilemma, wherein your minifigs are causing mischief in your office.

An autonomic nervous system is why minifigs have attempted to take over this blog and are so vain about their hair. They're essentially little people. Hence, minifig customization should only be attempted by adults -- this is not like melting a G.I. Joe with a magnifying glass. So use your dremel carefully when attempting minifig surgery.

Photo by Bill Ward.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Childhood redux

The hobbits had second breakfast -- which incidentally sounds like a fantastic idea. And I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not approaching my second childhood. Over the past year, it was a common theme I heard among Adult Fans of LEGO... well, I bought some LEGO sets for my kids and before you know it I was down on the floor right alongside them...

I jumped the gun a bit, playing with LEGO bricks before I had children, but with one on the way, playing together is one of the things I'm looking to forward most. It doesn't hurt that our culture appears to be going through a 80's hiccup, wherein the toys and books of my youth are being reinvented or reintroduced for my generation (and our children).

God bless marketing. We'll see a live-action Voltron and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs movie in the coming year. Not too shabby, my friends. The idea of rediscovering the joys and triumphs of childhood might be a step back into my past, but it sounds like a pretty enjoyable future.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

G is For...

You're paid up for the next installment of the Brick encyclopedia -- an almost regular and certainly non-comprehensive explanation of LEGO-related terms.

G is for...gear. Gears are used in Technic sets to transfer power or movement -- the same as in automobiles or any piece of machinery with moving parts.

G is for...Gold Tooth. You don't get many LEGO minifigs with grills, so this henchman of Dr. Inferno is pretty noticeable. He's also a pirate without an eye patch, which means he's probably got some great stories.

G is for..Gary McIntire -- a master model builder at LEGOLAND California. In addition to building a massive LEGO ball for Mythbusters, Gary is an outstanding tour guide.

G is for...Gail Storm. She's the heroine, who sadly often needs rescuing, from the Adventurers and Orient Expedition series.

G is for Galidor. A LEGO-ized version of a television show about intergalatic explorers trying to save the title city. This was LEGO's unsuccessful foray into the world of action figures.

Monday, August 3, 2009

You need a new keychain, you just don't know it yet

Keychains have never mattered -- until now. A LEGO minifig keychain w/ LED lights in the feet? Who's not on board with that one?

LEDs have helped drive a customization boom in minifigs the past several years, creating a line of new collectibles. There were the Halloween minifigures, including light-up ghosts and a Jack-o-Lanterned head straight out of Sleepy Hollow. The storm troopers with glowing red eye holes in their helmets. And LEGO Ironman, with a glowing LED power source in the chest and rocket feet. It remains the sweetest minifigure I've ever seen.

The keychain will apparently be available in mid-September. Gentleman, get a belt clip for your phone and clear some room in your pockets -- it's time to up your cool factor.

Photo by Balakov.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hidden jokes are sometimes the best part of MOCs (my own creations). An elaborate space station that has a Jar Jar Binks minifigure in a perilous position. The back of a seemingly normal storefront that hides a disturbingly realistic S&M scence.

The jokes are easy to miss. Some are hidden, purposefully. Others are like a game of Where's Waldo? when you don't know what Waldo looks like. A political columnist for the Edmonton Journal recently discovered one of these types of jokes inside a 120,000 brick replica of the Alberta Legislature.

In a story that vacillates between investigative reporting and good humor, we learn the story of how Darth Vader and eight stormtroopers came to stand on the lawn outside the Alberta "Legoslature." Here's to hoping everybody gets the joke...