Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Message in a Bottle

The greatest joy in playing with LEGO bricks is probably what lies in what you have not yet discovered. And so it is exciting when somebody takes a part and sees something that you might have never envisioned to create a new and wonderful MOC.

Matt Armstrong saw the pods from the X-pods series from the middle of this decade and managed to re-engineer them as the bottle to hold a model ship (via The Brothers Brick). His ship in a bottle captures that spirit of reinvention perfectly. The only question is how did he fit that ship inside the bottle, once it was built?

Photo by Bill Ward.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stormtroopers take the day off

It's an interesting question of what stormtroopers set out to accomplish on their day off from active duty.

Some might think they watch their Stormtrooper children, while attempting to get in a load of Stormtrooper laundry. Other suggest they enjoy a moment in the countryside or a chance to sunbathe on the beach. Or it could just be the right time to tend to their gardens or race a slinky.

Perhaps they take a cue from John Williams and learn to play guitar. Others might be buried in a paintball avalanche or finally realize their dream of flying a strawberry.

One lucky stormtrooper might even contemplate a marriage proposal.

Photo by cdharrison.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Celebreality comes to LEGO

If I needed to hire a headline writer, I'd start looking at The New York Post. They have a way of making three words tell a story, for example, "Lego my Gyllen-ho."

Yes, LEGO has made the tabloids. And even the minifig representation of Jake Gyllenhaal from the Prince of Persia movies is not immune from a bit of physique critique.

"The arms are a little less impressive, but the plastic guy's hair looks a million times better than the dead cat Jake sported on his head for the May 28 release," writes Jaret Wieselman.

I feel like this is where it gets interesting for The LEGO Group, because they're officially at the intersection of the toy world and celebrity news. I can't wait for blind items to start appearing about which minifigs were seen popping bottles at the 40/40 Club.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ready to party

I've never considered a LEGO-themed party, but I bet that enthusiasts and regular folk alike, might cotton to the idea.

The food would be easy and merely shaped differently from standard party fare. We could feature cocktails with LEGO ice cubes and cookies made in the shape of 2x2 bricks, thanks to the LEGO cookie cutter. After cookies and an open bar, everything seems better.

But the real attraction (for me) would be a free play area with bowls of bricks -- imagine the center of a LEGO retail store or the piles before a parts draft for a LEGO Users Group (LUG). I'd also like the idea of a LEGO Board Gallery to display everybody's creations -- like the one on display at Gizmodo's Private Preview last night.

Anybody ever put one together? Did you invite civilians and AFOLs alike?

Photo by cdharrison.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It looks nice, but what can it do?

We seem to be entering a ridiculous new stage in LEGO building where people are no longer content to building something beautiful -- now they want it to be completely functional as well. This week alone, there's the tale of a full-scale LEGO house (which sadly might be demolished) and a working LEGO cello from artist Nathan Sawaya.

The form is beautiful, the function is the surprise. Whether it's a door that swings open to reveal a building interior or a convertible top that rolls out over the front seats of a car, LEGO sets and MOCs are incredible feats of product design. Perhaps this is a unconscious reflection of the changing corporate culture at LEGO -- where innovation has become more targeted and focused. It's not enough to play, you have to play well.

by kooscannon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What to do in Billund, Denmark

About this time last year I was in Billund, Denmark, in order to interview some kind folks from LEGO and visit LEGOLAND Billund.

In addition to re-learning to drive a stick shift through a country with a healthy respect for roundabouts, I also discovered the Fransk dog -- a cored out baguette filled with hot dog and the sauce of your choosing. But the real treasure was the Idea House -- which catalogues the rich history and culture of The LEGO Group. I filmed this video in the vault, where they keep nearly all of the sets for historical purposes.

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a travel piece on Billund with recommendations for where to stay and what to do. If you're considering making the trip, I only have a few tweaks to the piece. Consider the Hotel Propellen -- if you don't have small children, it's a long-ish, but completely possible walk from the hotel. Parking is also free at the park, so long as you know how to drive a manual car, that's an option as well.

Photo by bluemoose.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am not a cylon

With BrickCon 2009 (Oct. 1-4) approaching, I realize it's been nearly a year since I attended my last Adult Fan of LEGO convention. Forgive me father, it's been a year since my last convention...

A lot has happened in a year, including my very-late-to-the-party understanding of why somebody might want to recreate a ship from Battlestar Galactica in LEGO. With tons of vipers and raptors on display, I didn't understand the show's appeal when I attended BrickCon last year.

However, my wife and I have been killing the episode discs from Netflix -- watching more than I care to admit in the few weeks we've both been home. When one of you is stationary, it lends itself well to destroying a series on DVD, especially since we are fortunate enough to have a Netflix distribution center in town. Battlestar Galactica never knew what hit it.

Photo by Dunechaser.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Put it on the calendar

For a long while you didn't have a lot of choices when it came to calendars. There were those given out as freebies by businesses and the ones featuring racy pictures of women that seem to hang in garages in every Stephen King novel.

Then Ziggy changed everything, bringing a smorgasbord of options to desk and wall calendars. He's always been a trailblazer. Well, calendars are about to take another giant leap forward in England.

A LEGO Charity Calendar is being released for 2010 showing minifigures in precariously stated photographs that are connected to the theme or holiday of a given month. The slowly thawing LEGO minifig scaring the Arctic Explorers minifig is well done.

As long as you're at the LEGO Shop, you might also ask about the LEGO company making the Pirates Advent Calendar available in the United States and Canada. Right now, you can only get it if you live abroad.

Photo by donut_p.

Friday, September 11, 2009

iPod docks and Pirates

It's Friday and that sometimes means a mish-mosh, kitchen sink approach, wherein your brain spits out all of the things it's been going over the past week in an attempt to clear the cache.

I saw this iPod touch dock made (from the looks of it with mostly Technic elements) this morning and thought why didn't I think of that, particularly since it's an idea that's been around for a while. It will be significantly more fun to build than a visit to my local cell phone provider to purchase a dock.

But perhaps more importantly, it's always nice to see LEGO swing the Pirate versus Ninja debate -- I won't ruin who wins, but if you know your LEGO, you'll have a pretty good idea. In the interim, TiVo Deadliest Warrior -- a scientific breakdown of fights between classic warriors on Spike that includes reenactments that are entertaining to watch. It's what you want the nature simulations to be, when they have a shark and bear fight, except it is men fighting, men like pirates and ninjas.

Photo by Ben Demey.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

LEGO bricks and diaper wipes

You know you've entered a different phase of life when you go from playing with LEGO bricks daily to receiving a LEGO-shaped diaper wipes box.

A family friend dropped off a gift of these two boxes, knowing about the LEGO book I'm currently working on. Her guess is they were from the 1980's. They have the layout of a traditional LEGO brick -- studs on top and tubes on the bottom. They're "stackables," and were made for a brand called "Chubbs."

As far as I can tell, this was a non-LEGO sanctioned product, despite the similar appearance. I haven't found any references that LEGO and Chubbs produced products together, although I will say a surprising number of people who choose to build with LEGO bricks have the nickname of Chubbs.

Anybody out there know if LEGO and the L&F corporation ever worked together?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I with LEGO bricks

I lucked out, plain and simple. I married someone who not only understood that I wanted to start playing with LEGO bricks with me, but was also willing to build alongside me.

In talking to a lot of male adult fans of LEGO, I realized that their significant others or spouses fell into a few camps. Some didn't understand why an AFOL felt compelled to build. Others saw it as a compromise -- the hobby that they let their husband have just so long it was confined to one room and under a specific budget. Here we get unfortunate terms like man cave and "why don't you think about a build room in the basement."

And then there is a small, but strong community, of female builders, who have embraced LEGO alongside their partners (and in some cases, been the driving force for bringing their husbands out of the Dark Ages). Take the story of Matt Fucci and Vail Miller inside The Washington Post this morning. Matt proposed via a ring inside a customized LEGO set. Of course, she said yes.

I hope Matt realizes just how lucky he is to build alongside his fiance.

Monday, September 7, 2009

To Infinity and Beyond for LEGO

It has been a big year for LEGO -- a fact that can be attributed to the book I'm writing -- well, that, and a series of savvy marketing strategy and licensing decisions by the company.

The current success of LEGO and the future direction of the company is examined in an opus article by The New York Times, which ran in Saturday's business section. This is a good piece if you want to get up to date on all of the new efforts that LEGO is rolling out from concept stores for building classes and parties to the online role playing world of LEGO Universe (which keeps getting tantalizingly closer). It's also nice to see the market of adult fans get recognized as the piece considers the LEGO of today versus the past products released by the company.

In related news, Business Wire has images of one of the latest LEGO tie-ins w/ Toy Story with models of Buzz Lightyear and Woody.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Interview with Sean Kenney

I had a chance to talk to Sean Kenney last month about his experiences playing with LEGO bricks as a kid and the start of his career as a LEGO Certified Professional. It was fun to talk shop for an hour or so and learn a bit about one of the most accomplished LEGO artists in the world.

The story ran late last month in Time Out New York -- and if you ever needed inspiration for taking a chance on your dream job, it's right there in virtual ink. You can visit his homepage here or show off your own impressive structures at the photo-sharing Web site, MOCpages, that he launched in 2003.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The LEGO cookie cutter in action

If you look at the Internet long enough, your life interests or career pursuits bleed together like a Magic Eye painting. Unless you're poor Ethan Suplee -- he'll never get it.

At the end of July, I started working as a food blogger for The Pitch -- an alternative weekly in Kansas City, Missouri, that is owned by Village Voice Media. I sit at the helm of six posts a day for Fat City -- the food blog that covers local and current restaurant and food issues. So, far, the only thing unpleasant has been putting Mountain Dew Voltage in my mouth for a review.

As part of my job, I'm constantly online looking for potential food stories or quirky news -- and this morning I came across a CNET post concerning the rolling cookie cutter from LEGO. I've heard mixed things from adult fans -- some think the kitsch factor makes it worth collecting, while others were disappointed in the actual functionality, suggesting the final product wasn't close enough to 2x2 LEGO bricks.

But until the CNET review, I never knew if your dough made a difference. Apparently, sugar cookies and shortbread dough are best for faux-bricks. From a consistency standpoint -- a thicker, uniform cookie makes sense as a good fit for the mold. And bad versions of both often taste like plastic.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

H is for...

Another month, another entry in the Brick Encyclopedia -- the only series of LEGO definitions endorsed by my household. Today, we explore the letter H:

H is for... Harry Potter. With a series of sets tied into the early movies and a video game on the way for 2010 -- this combination is magic.

H is for... Horse. So far my attempts to construct anything equine have always resorted in a camel -- a camel that I pretend is a horse.

H is for...Henry Jones Sr. Any minifig you can purchase that allows you to do a poor Sean Connery impression is one to keep. Say it with me, "Indiana was the dog's name."

H is for...Hair. Who knew that female minifig hair could be rare and coveted? But when you're searching for variety for a MOC, it's nice not to have everyone with a bowl haircut.

H is for...Hook. This is half the reason to purchase the LEGO pirates sets (no pun intended). Sadly, anyone with a hook is a bad guy. I apologize to my hook readers. Please do not slam your pirate hooks onto the keyboard with frustration. It will only impale the keyboard, further compounding your anger.

Photo by Parl.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I've lost my head

Headless villains really only work in the one story. So, it may be time to say good bye to the Stegosaurus in the Bender household.

It was after a photo shoot, that the mover (read: me) failed to properly secure the head while attempting to transition the stegosaurus set from kitchen table to bookcase. Ironically, this move was attempted to prevent the cat from doling out her unique brand of vengeance on the dinosaur. The head, a slight design flaw, is too heavy for the pin that attaches it to the body. A wood floor ensured the head would not survive the fall.

But Jon, you say, these are LEGO bricks -- you can rebuild it, even without the directions. Isn't that the whole point? Sure, but if the head has broken off accidentally, then I don't feel so bad about scavenging the light brick or turning the Stegosaurus into spare parts. And even though it's not a horseman, a headless dinosaur is still kinda creepy.