Thursday, December 31, 2009

In the year 2010...

Since the snow is piled up outside and Christmas movies are still running on cable, it seems appropriate to end this year with thoughts on the LEGO past, present, and future.

So to those who have provided me building advice, interviews for the book, and the general trappings of friendship -- thank you. I'm excited to see what you teach me in 2010. As for next year, I think it's going to be a banner one.

And today I've got an afternoon free and a Space Skulls set to put together. Are these what zombie astronauts would fly? Or exactly what they wouldn't fly, since that would make them the brains -- which are what they constantly seek, and not what they are? Perhaps this is why I'm not allowed to make up back stories for my child's toys -- although there is a sock monkey who makes Russian cars for other sock monkeys. He goes over well with everybody in the household.

As for New Year's future? Starting tomorrow, I can say the book will be released this year -- an actual book on the shelves of libraries and bookstores. As someone who has loved reading since it became possible, that is the definition of cool.

And so to you and yours in the New Year, a happy and healthy 365 days. Play well.

Image via Brothers Brick.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Submarine eating-fish and LEGO maniacs

The arrival of a new slate of television advertisements from LEGO has me remembering the ad campaigns of my youth -- Zach...Zach...He's a LEGO Maniac...Zach...Zach... I apologize for introducing that song into your head, but as they say, it was the only way to get a song out of my head.

Please sing it on to someone else, otherwise I'll feel you'll start a vicious cycle that ends in a terrible lack of productivity for both of us. Plus, I believe the rule with theme songs is similar to a game of tag -- therefore, no sing-backs.

While stumbling around the Internet, I came across a recent Ad Hack post, which suggests that children in Britain may have had a different favorite LEGO ad as a kid. I can only wish we were able to experience the "Kipper" spot -- a fictional battle between LEGO creations capable of changing into anything -- keep an eye out for the submarine-eating fish. These are the kinds of battles of creativity we should all have.

Image from DeviantArt.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Minifig, Minifig let me in

I never really considered collecting minifigs until I saw a display of customized figures from Fine Clonier Decals at BrickWorld a few years back. There was something very satisfying about seeing all of the Super Friends and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise together. It made start to think about how minifigs could be more than operators of the cars I built, but instead have personalities that extended beyond their noseless faces.

News has leaked over the past several months about a limited release of collectible minifigs with the debate ranging over whether they are tie-ins to LEGO Universe or actual figures that will be produced. There is apparently a robot, cheerleader, Mexican wrestler, crash test dummy, nurse, zombie, and Robin Hood among the initial set of 16 characters.

I hope these are coming in 2010 and like parents seeking a Zhu Zhu pet, I'll be scouring the Internet in an attempt to secure mine. The only difference is the minifigs will be for me, not my daughter.

As an aside, you should get started on your Halloween costumes for next year -- here are the instructions for turning your group of friends into Maxifigs.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The gift of sharing

Fresh from a LEGO haul at Christmas -- this year included the Camper set and a Brick Light (an oversized two-by-two light that you mount on the wall) -- the question arises of what are you willing to share as an adult?

I've had adult fans give me rare pieces, minifigs, and (perhaps most importantly) endless amounts of guidance on building. It's nice to know that we are willing to share as long as you understand that "no one thutches my LEGOs," without my permission.

[Image via Zach is Here]

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Welcome back anticipation, I've been waiting for you

There are a number of benefits to picking up LEGO bricks again later in life. It is an escape from responsibilities. You jump start parts of your imagination that may have been laying dormant since you were a kid. And the joy of anticipation returns.

I am an adult that I'm sure is difficult to shop for on Christmas. To give you an example, the object I was most excited to receive a few years back was a shredder for my office. Although, since then I have discovered that a shredder is not particularly exciting and can't shred four envelopes at once. That shredder did have a brief return to fundom when it broke and I managed to jerry-rig it with a hammer and my foot. It now reluctantly does my bidding with a groan and the threat of electrical sparks -- all in all, it's much more interesting today because of the slight element of danger.

But last year and this year again, I have rediscovered the joy of anticipation. I'm excited for the LEGO sets to come after I read through the winter catalogue with genuine longing. Tomorrow's Christmas and I can't wait to find out what's under the tree.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ready the Laser!

If James Lipton were to ask me what sound or noise do I love, I'd offer up the noise we've all made since children to mimic a laser gun -- Pew, Pew!

And so would Andrew Colunga -- who has built an X-maspunk Ray Gun -- complete with a firing cone made from a LEGO Christmas tree. The inverted tires on the handle are a clever touch in the kind of toy I wish was in production.

Now the question remains. Is the kind of weapon wielded by a space alien or intrepid space explorer. In my mind, there is only one group strong enough to wield such a unique ray gun and that group is the Space Dwarves.

Image via Flickr: Andrew Colunga

Monday, December 21, 2009

If the LEGO shoe fits...

A night of clubbing calls for something a bit fancier than your minifig torso t-shirt (I know I look good in it, but these places have dress codes) and at least for the forseeable future, you've got two options -- the multi-colored buckled heel from Steve Madden ($99.95) or the closed front cage sandal from Balenciaga ($4,175). What, most of you who play with LEGO bricks don't wear heels?

Well, it's time you updated your wardrobe or we helped to change the demographics a bit. But you should save up because you may be limited to only the high-end model in the future as Balenciaga has filed suit against Steve Madden claiming copyright and trademark infringement (via Andy).

Why can't we all be inspired by LEGO bricks and figure out how to play nice? The fate of the primary-colored shoe market hangs in the balance. In the interim, I'll be busy trying to figure out how to wedge my feet into these.

Image via CityFile New York

Friday, December 18, 2009

The LEGO Movie

Since the live action LEGO movie is technically still in development -- I thought it appropriate to share some ideas as to what the plot could be for a movie that is expected to be a blend of live action and animation. For the latest, here's a recent interview with producer Dan Lin -- who talks about how the project is being fast-tracked and the LEGO Group's involvement.

If one of these ideas helps the movie get made faster, then I'm all for them being used.

-A remake of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. When you say a combo of live-action and animation -- that's the gold standard. Bob Hoskins probably needs a garage and Fabuland is ready for a comeback.

-Think Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, but with LEGO bricks. Wacky scientist dad accidentally sends children into the world of minifigs or LEGO Universe -- a quest and hilarity ensue.

-LEGO Star Wars. They've got the sets and the partnership in place. It's every boy's dream to become a Jedi -- and they've got just over 73,000 brick films to mine from on YouTube.

-There's this book being released in 2010 -- it's a tale of a plucky young journalist and his wife, who discover love and building together as adults. It's got real humor and heart -- the kind of family film that stays with you.

[Image via Soothbrush]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The house that LEGO built

Today, my goal is to inspire you to build -- to take the bricks out of their plastic tubs, ignore the stresses of work or life, and just begin to snap pieces together.

First, watch one of the newest advertisements from LEGO. With a voice over that is somewhere between the "Real Men of Genius" campaign and the NFL Football Films guy -- you haven't heard a voice this compelling since Morgan Freeman told you to use your VISA.

The message of the commercial is to "Build Together," as a father and son team fist bump up after completing a LEGO brick house. And it is effective. In a time when things continue to get more complicated, the simple joy of building with plastic bricks seems to become more important.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spotlight on: Ask a LEGO Fan

I'll confess to reading a lot of LEGO-related blogs every day. But in my defense, it's my job. In my offense, it is a supremely awesome job. So, in an effort to shine some of that awesomeness in the direction of your cubicle, monkey training facility, or the set of Dirty Jobs, I wanted to shine a spotlight on some of those LEGO-related blogs.

The first is Ask a LEGO Fan -- a site with the noble agenda of answering questions from fans of LEGO bricks. The blog's author is not affiliated with the LEGO Group, but is the kind of fan that I found to be an invaluable resource while writing LEGO: A Love Story -- somebody who cares enough about the company to try and always get his facts straight.

Also, this blog embodies the best characteristics of Adult Fans of LEGO -- the desire to share, teach, and generally spread the gospel of the plastic brick. So send in a question, this is one of the few places in life where there are plenty of answers readily available.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

That's Hoth [in a Paris Hilton accent]

With old man winter knocking on the door and Christmas looming, it only seems right to highlight one of the cooler series of LEGO photos I've seen this year [thanks to Joe for the tip]. Flickr user Avanaut has a collection of winter hijinks on Hoth -- the ice and snow planet from Star Wars -- that are visually stunning.

And in the spirit of the DIY movement, he's also included exactly how he has built and shot these scenes without the aid of Photoshop. It involves plaster of paris, an old CD case, and submerging everything in water. So, if you want it, you've now got plans for winter break.

We should all take such photos.

[Image via Avanaut]

Monday, December 14, 2009

K is for...

If you've made it to K, you're 11 letters into the Brick Encyclopedia. Treat yourself to a homemade sundae bar. I'll wait...

How was it? Did you add one topping too many? It's the gummy bear effect and it waylays the best of us at sundae bars. Always stick with two toppings and, on special occasions, add a third. The fourth is where you'll discover that you don't want to eat what you have made.

Speaking of not eating what you build, the following is the relevant 'K' terms in the Brick Encyclopedia.

K is for...KFOL (Kid Fan of LEGO). This is either the child of an Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) or just your average kid that enjoys playing with the plastic bricks.

K is for...K'Nex. To those who would consider this their favorite building toy, you have my sympathies. I look forward to viewing your marble and steel creations in the mall one day.

K is for...Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. The current owner and grandson of LEGO's founder -- Kjeld is a cult hero among AFOLs for helping to restructure the company and bring it back to profitability over the past five years.

K is for...Kit. It's a word that is used interchangeably with set, but often refers to a custom model, designed and packaged by fans. The custom kits are then sold on the Internet or at fan conventions. The talking car (spelled KITT) on Knight Rider or Baloo's sidekick from Talespin are also acceptable definitions.

K is for...Knight's Kingdom. A LEGO playtheme with two iterations in this decade, the Knight's Kingdom figurines were essentially action figures. And yes, I've fought with them in mock battle before.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Have you got LEGO Fever?

We've got a new term to add to the lexicon -- "LEGO fever." It apparently describes that exact moment in childhood when learn the cleanest four-letter word you're totally allowed to say in public. It's when you have a very short list for Santa and your dad is very excited about playing with you on Christmas morning.

It also turns out that LEGO Fever is a video game featuring two brothers in track suits -- Harry and Jens -- who must accomplish a series of missions by building objects out of bricks. In my head, it's a combination of Dude Where's My Car, Oregon Trail, and Dig-Dug.

But since this is flu season, I want everybody to be careful. LEGO fever is highly contagious and even hand-washing won't stop you from catching it. In fact, you're probably a carrier for LEGO fever, you just don't know it. The only way to get a sure diagnosis is to pick up a few bricks and see what happens.

And so, as Christopher Walken so delightfully said, "I've got a fever and the only more LEGO."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How many frequent flier miles you got?

Put a trip to Malaysia on the calendar for April 2012 -- that's when LEGOLAND Malaysia is set to open.

Johor Streets
has the story of the first six model builders that were trained at LEGOLAND California over a 10-week period to learn to build the 15,000 models that will be displayed throughout the park. What struck me about the interviews with the builders is that rather than focus on LEGO bricks or a chance to once again play with toys, most were excited by the design skills they would gain in this profession. And that might be what separates the fan from the career -- thoughts of access to millions of bricks, as opposed to the design challenges of gluing thousands of those elements onto a steel infrastructure.

So, who's up for the trip? I'll meet you in Miniland Asia.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Racer X is on the loose

Life is full of mysteries, chief among them is how LEGO elements manage to appear in the most unlikely places, once the amount of bricks you have overwhelms the initial tub you used for storage.

When I put on a pair of new jeans I've never worn recently, I discovered a Racer X minifig (of Speed Racer fame) in the front right pocket. Now I remember getting the Racer X minifig at BrickCon 2008 in Seattle; however, that was well before I owned the jeans.

As to how Racer X managed to work his way free of a Tupperware container in my office and inside that denim, that is a question for the LEGO Gods. I remain convinced that LEGO bricks are like pieces of sand after a day at the beach, they get into everything. Usually, there's an explanation. This time we'll just chalk it up to the same elves or pixies that help one finish a MOC (My Own Creation).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dear LEGO: A love letter

Not many toys are worthy of a love letter. But LEGO bricks can bring out some pretty strong feelings from those who have fallen in love with the system of play. Exhibit A? Suzy's ode to LEGO published in The Guardian this weekend:
Everyday I scoop you up, all the hundreds of tiny bits of you and put you back in the shallow green plastic box we've made your home, and every time I think how fantastic you are. I love your colours, your different shape and size bricks and all the accessories and bits and bobs that make you who you are and so infinitely interesting to play with. More than anything I love how beautifully you're made. You're perfectly moulded, rigid, reliable and give a satisfying little snapping sound when you fit together.
LEGO love is ultimately very Jerry Maquire-esque: I love you for the bricks you are and for what the bricks will be. It's easy to anthropomorphize LEGO elements because of the idea of infinite possibility. We see the potential that we'd like to see in ourselves in a big old jumbled pile of bricks. Because when everything clicks, that's when we start to be excited about what we've managed to accomplish.

Image via CraigLyons.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The reason you shouldn't have a LEGO gun

There's a reason LEGO doesn't produce guns (outside of licensed sets like Indiana Jones) -- it's a philosophical choice about violence and children's toys. Perhaps, we could add another reason to the mix -- because you don't want the Toronto Police Department putting you in handcuffs and pinning you up against the wall.

The story of Canadian Jeremy Bell is a cautionary tale about what happens when your neighbor sees you playing with a realistic-looking LEGO gun. Bell ordered a replica from BrickGun -- which makes the "coolest LEGO weapons in the world." The neighbor, saw the gun from across the way, and apparently believed it to be a real gun that was endangering the lives of those in Bell's office. The neighbor apparently didn't notice when the brick-based gun fell apart in a co-worker's hands.

The weirdest portion of the story is that the neighbor Tweeted an apology -- what a weird, hyper-connected and, yet estranged, world we live in sometimes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't Give Up on Building

The New York Times had a story yesterday covering the rise of construction toys and the accompanying lament of parents vexed by large sets (of primarily LEGO bricks) that required them to assemble too many parts.

The thing I couldn't stop thinking about while reading the article is how much the parents sounded like children presented with a difficult challenge or chore. This is too hard...I don't like this...I don't get it... But the parents don't have anyone to tell them to just give it a try and see what they can accomplish. Because as parents, we get to pull the plug whenever we want.

So allow me to fill that role for a moment. If parents can push past that gut reaction that LEGO sets are too complicated, they might discover the same joy that they had playing with bricks as a child. Some of the most active adult fans of LEGO that I know were in your position just a few years ago. It was all because they didn't give up...and they ate their vegetables.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ain't No Party, Like a LEGO Party

I've read about the idea of a LEGO party -- usually as a suggestion for an affordable and alternative children's birthday party. But lately I've been thinking that without a LEGO Users Group (LUG) here in Kansas City, it would be fun to take the idea of a LEGO party and make it a bit more adult.

The basic premise would be the same -- a lot of loose bricks, maybe some sets, and a large open workspace where everyone could build. I'd probably still even have cake -- as it's not a party without cake. Add in a cooler of beer and food that doesn't leave your hands greasy and now all that remains is determining which guests might be into playing with bricks as an adult.

Perhaps, best of all, I'm envisioning everyone leaving with a small goodie bag of LEGO bricks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The capper

I have a lot of non-traditional baseball caps, but the one that draws the most comments is a sky blue cap from LEGOLAND California. It's not flashy, it just says LEGOLAND, and people (whether they are closeted or active fans) like to talk about LEGO bricks.

But (sadly) I've got nothing on my hat hooks to compare to the above design by French designer JC de Castelbajac, who apparently covered New Era baseball caps in LEGO pieces for a recent fashion show. While purists will be disappointed to learn that glue was likely involved, the final result suggests that on occasion glue might allow for something wonderful to happen.

I imagine the caps were a bit heavy, sort of the children's version of Vegas showgirl's headpieces and they're delightfully impractical. But a LEGO cap would be a sweet addition to anyone's hat hook.