Friday, February 26, 2010

Apolo Anton LEGO

I know I need to go cold turkey, after sitting down to free build the other night while watching the Olympics and finding myself trying to put together a curling vignette. That is not a good sign.

It's funny how what you're doing in life tends to leak into what you build. In part, I think that comes from starting to see the LEGO bricks hidden in real life shapes -- kind of like the guessing game in a Highlights magazine or Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code. It's why I now stare at most things with a quizzical expression on my face -- my head cocked to the side in a similar manner to my dog when she is confused.

Although this is a nice time to go back and check out the amazing recreation of the 2008 Olympic village from Beijing, China. The Water Cube and 4,500+ minifigs are mind-boggling. I figure if I start now, I can be done with my version of the games in London by 2012.

Image via Geekadelphia.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New York City captured in bricks

I've got a bookshelf full of book titles, but I've also always got room for one more. And that spot in the corner is looking like it's reserved for "I LEGO N.Y." -- the new board book from artist Christoph Niemann that's set to release on March 1.

Based on a series that originally appeared last February on Niemann's blog -- Abstract City -- on The New York Times website, the book is a whimsical series of illustrations that capture New York City with just a few LEGO bricks and words. Each snapshot is a nice reminder of how LEGO bricks can be used to play on our associations. It's a testament to the emotional power of the simple bricks.

The Brothers Brick has a review of an early copy -- which suggests that you don't have to love New York to love this book.

Image via Abstract City.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

N is for...

We're officially halfway through the Brick Encyclopedia which is when your sadness may start to set in. But don't worry, enough time has passed that we can likely just head back to the start to begin work on the revised edition. And with that, N is for...

Neville Longbottom -- Those who found middle school awkward can find solace in Neville Longbottom's minifig, until you realize that you treasure a minifigure from the Harry Potter sets -- that is doubly awkward.

Nautica -- Besides being a line of clothing that gave me street cred at the marina thanks to a wicked green and blue striped rugby polo, this is a subtheme of the Town series, which centered around harbor-based sets.

Nurse -- A new line of collectible minifigures is due out this summer, one of which is a nurse featuring a syringe and clipboard.

Ninja -- A series of LEGO sets between 1998 and 2000, the Ninja is poised for a comeback -- that you never saw coming! -- with his front and center placement for LEGO Universe. Way to bide your time Ninja, way to bide your time.

Nien Nunb -- A character in a LEGO Star Wars video game (and a movie before that) -- the only man-fish-alien that is cool enough to fly co-pilot with Lando Calrissian. And with that factoid -- sorry ladies, I'm married.

Image via jonathanb1989.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

LOST interpreted in LEGO bricks

Since I am struggling to have faith that LOST will provide me with appropriate answers at the conclusion of the series this season -- I have decided to look for answers among the LEGO bricks.

Because even if I am just as confused -- why do they keep saying the time for questions is over, yet continue to raise new questions -- I can start to be amused. *If you've never seen the show, this is the time to stop reading as you're going to gain plot details you'd rather learn organically.*

In order to get to know the characters, you can see the LOST minifigures. Or how about The Hatch that drove the early seasons and gave us the character of Desmond. Here's the frozen wheel chamber that transports Ben off the island and the massive statue that has been reduced to a foot below water. Andrew Becraft's Flickr stream has a series of vignettes from AFOL Jon Furman, including a Dharma Initiative van and the inside of the hatch.

Over on YouTube, there are also a serious collection of tribute videos including several versions of the original season opener. There is also some serious reimagining about what the Dharma Initiative's purpose might be if it was run by Sean Connery and Samuel L. Jackson. For those who prefer their orientation videos to be more true to form, here's one from The Zen station. And what if zombies made it to The Island? Although I'm ending on a question, these are the kinds of questions I think we need to ask.

Image via Dunchaser.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The galleys have escaped

The galleys are out in the wild. The key to bagging a galley is to remember that while you're looking at the one in front of you, another will attack from the side.

We've had reports from Connecticut, North Carolina, and Kansas of galleys running loose. If you happen to stumble upon a galley -- you should immediately call the galley hotline -- which is like the Polar Bear hotline. The danger with galleys is that you will get sucked into this book and not be able to escape for a period of time that solely depends on how quickly you read. You will stop working and eating because you will need to know how LEGO: A Love Story ends. It is like a mental bear trap.

So keep your eyes peeled and your safari hats on because once those galleys have been released -- "life finds a way," and it's only a matter of time before that which is not for resale ends up on eBay.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Talking Toy Fair with Joe Meno

The Toy Fair in New York City -- a.k.a. the LEGO set upfronts -- was this past weekend and with it came a host of photos to dork out on. One of the most extensive collection of shots is courtesy of Joe Meno -- editor of BrickJournal.

Joe tirelessly documents adult fan conventions for his magazine -- you'll get sucked into his Flickr photostream pretty easily. He's consulted on LEGO sets and usually has a great idea of what's in development. Now that Toy Fair is come and gone, he can talk about some the 2010 releases from the LEGO Group. His impressions are below, courtesy of a quick e-mail Q&A.

Which of the new sets that are hitting shelves are you most excited about?

There are a few sets that I have already made plans on getting at release:

• the Jet (5892) - I love planes, and this model has moving flaps, folding landing gear and glowing engines!

• LEGO Truck (3221) - while the semi is pretty neat as a build, the truck is delivering a LEGO set, which are blue bricks with LEGO stickers on them!

• Star Wars Slave I (8097) - it's another version of the ship, yes, but it has a real Han Solo in Carbonite part, not the previous printed piece.

• the Jester (7953) - this will be an impulse set, and this one is simply too cute.

Which sets do you think might surprise some adult fans?

• Portal of Atlantis (8078) - there's a lot of neat details in the set, as the portal opens like a camera iris and the sharkhead gate opens with the bottom jaw splitting while the top jaw opens up.

• Motorized Excavator (8043) - A electrical LEGO builder's dream set with two remote controllers and receivers, 4 linear actuators, and 4 motors!

Have you had a chance to play the LEGO board games?

Oh yeah - have a few of them: Lunar Command, Ramese's Pyramid, and Monster 4. I like them all, but for sheer fun, Monster 4 is the best, as it's easy to learn and quickly played.

Any sets that have the Joe Meno stamp on them?

LEGO Truck, Atlantis Exploration HQ - 8077 (it's a sub too), Ostrich Race - 7570 (from the Prince of Persia sets), the Jester, and the upcoming collector minifigs!

Image via bucklava.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pat your hands on your legs, there's a book cover

Ladies and Gentleman, we have a book cover. While it's not yet public, rest assured, it is outstanding to the point that I'm excited for the day that it becomes public and we can discuss its ability to blow your minds.

While the fact that a PDF gets my adrenaline pumping means I may not have survived in the days of the caveman, it suggests that I'm well suited for my occupation of typing at a computer. After seeing the cover yesterday, I owned the white Mastodon that is my Mac. Although I should not have attempted to cook it over a fire in my cave. That was a lie, I'll never own a man cave and hopefully that sad addition to the American lexicon is now retired from this space.

If you've got a guess as to the cover, please feel free to share it in the comments. The winner gets a burnt end sandwich the next time they're in Kansas City.

*Please note, that is not the cover. It is just a yellow whale. Nothing more to see here, move on to the rest of the Internets, folks...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The future we envision as children

There are not many things that I do today that I did when I was six years old. That is, in part due to experience -- my reading, writing and math skills have improved markedly -- and in part because of what's now available -- TiVo, a valid driver's license, the Internet.

Yet on Saturday morning -- I had cartoons on the television and a bucket of LEGO bricks spilled out on my ottoman. Although with cartoons -- my acumen for understanding exactly what is going on has precipitously declined with age.

The dog I said I would own since I was three years old, slept beside me on the couch. I was drinking a huge glass of iced coffee as the temperatures outside dipped into the teens. That seemed very un-adult to me.

And for close to two hours, I played like I was six years old again. I built without a clear purpose, fitting specialty bricks together to see, like clouds floating past, what shapes might appear. My teeth remained safely behind my lips, courtesy of a brick separator -- which to me is as amazing an invention as TiVo.

The biggest attraction to building with LEGO bricks? Forgetting that 25 years have passed.

Image via Helico.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Brick Show: Thinking outside the LEGO box

As soon as the first child received the first LEGO set, the world's first LEGO critic was born. Since that time, reviewers have gotten slightly older, more sophisticated and uploaded their videos to the Internet by the thousands (20,000+ on YouTube currently).

Brothers Jason and Stephen Forthofer are hoping to change the way we look at LEGO set reviews and potentially launch a new business in the process on The Brick Show. Their videos begin with a WWE-style introduction that lets you know the brothers have a sense of humor, before they get into the piece count and unboxing of the set. They give you a look at the finished set and their thoughts on the end result.

It's also nice to see adults play with LEGO bricks -- people of every age roll a car on a desk -- but most grown men aren't comfortable enough to film it. I caught up with the brothers Forthofer via e-mail (Jason is in Georgia, Stephen is in Florida) to find out the story behind The Brick Show, which launched last month.

What inspired you to start shooting the videos?

As LEGO fans ourselves, we realized just how popular the reviews were on YouTube. We noticed that some review that were awful would have like 300,000 views. So we thought, hey, let's do this but do it so much better. Let's show our faces, create a branded name and create a consistent release of the videos. Really, we just noticed how popular it was to post LEGO reviews on Youtube and wanted to make them better than what was currently out there.

Would you consider yourself an adult fan of LEGO?

Absolutely. We both ask for LEGO sets for our birthdays/christmas presents and buy sets that we like and would buy even without the show.

I noticed that there are a few sites attached to the podcasts. Is this a business venture, a hobby, or both?

Right now, we are trying to spread the word everywhere we can. I (Jason) am a web entrepreneur for my day job so I'm pretty savvy with getting the web traffic so I'm using my experience with search engines and social media to help get the word out about The Brick Show. As for a business, we would LOVE to one day have this as a full time gig, but right now it's just a small business venture/hobby.

What's been most exciting or surprising about shooting the review videos?

We've been surprised with how much positive feedback we've been getting just a month into this and how quickly we've been able to get a little following. Just 4 weeks into the show, we've had 10,000 YouTube views already. We also initially planned to do just 1 show per week, but we've been enjoying it so much we've been doing two per week.

Do you have a build room or a place designated for storage? You've been opening a lot of sets...

I have an office were I do all the shows and I've been storing the sets there. We typically sell them after we do the show so we can offset the costs of buying in that volume.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is there a Mrs. Squidman?

Since it's Valentine's Day on Sunday -- I have a recommendation for you. Buy your date or significant other (or yourself) a LEGO impulse set. They're $4 to $10 and they'll last a lot longer than chocolate or a greeting card.

In addition, nothing says "I Love You" like a LEGO Squidman...I mean, right? Besides, the LEGO Space Police are only arresting Squidman for being too gorgeous, I mean, right?

On the off chance that you think I'm way off base on this one, I'll give you two legitimate reasons to justify this idea (which should be considered in the same light as when somebody says something ludicrous, hears your stunned silence, and then says...just kidding. They're not really kidding and neither am I.)

1. Valentine's Day is too weighty a holiday. Gifts are overanalyzed because of their potential significance. A LEGO impulse set keeps it light and can always be followed up with a....just kidding, let's go out for dinner. Either that or you've just nailed it for $5.99.

2. This is a good barometer. Here you can gauge someone's sense of humor, just as you might what to know their feelings on spicy food or techno music.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The not-so-great San Francisco caper

Bad karma comes in doses of all sizes.

There's stealing a cookie from Santa -- which depending on your parental status and or/whether Santa has a nut allergy -- is fairly low on the spectrum. On the other end has to be stealing a LEGO sculpture of San Francisco landmarks. To paraphrase Austin Powers, honestly...who steals some LEGO?

The Benz family had LEGO scale creations of Ghirardelli Square, the Conservatory of Flowers, and Palace of Fine Arts stolen from the cab of their pick-up truck. All told, $6,000 in LEGO bricks went missing last week and that doesn't account for the hours and skill that goes into building each of those MOCs.

I hope they are returned because if they're not, somebody is definitely due for a lump of coal next Christmas.

Image via Jurvetson.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

M is for...

The good folks at the Oxford English Dictionary have not yet contacted me, so until they come up with the definitive guide to LEGO terms -- the Brick Encyclopedia will continue. Although it should be noted, I am available for dictionary writing if you're concerned that your party may be too much fun -- I'm on the opposite end of the scale of the cartoonist who draws your head as a massive topper to a tiny body doing your favorite activity.

My new party business therefore promoted, let's get on to the letter "M."

M is for...My Own Creation (MOC). The world of free-building, where you take parts from sets and your collection, to design and build something completely original.

M is for...Miniland. Otherwise known as Exhibit A in convincing someone to get back into the hobby as an adult. These faithfully recreated cities and landmarks are wonders and wonderful.

M is for...Minifigure. The little dudes and dudettes that power the LEGO Universe. Sadly, they do not finish your MOCs at night for you like the shoemaker's elves.

M is for...Man-Bat. Before there was Man-Bear-Pig, there was Man-Bat. The cleverly named villain of the LEGO Batman video game. His top half is bat, his bottom half is in jeans -- go figure.

M is for...Mars Mission. The first set I bought to kick off this whole adventure was a Mars Mission set at a garage sale. Inside was a Chewbacca minifigure and enough bricks to get me hooked.

M is for...Mindstorms. It's like a storm in your mind. These robotic sets have been immensely popular and profitable for LEGO over the course of the past decade.

M is for...Mr. Freeze. The minifigure that I have walked across my desk hundreds of times, proclaiming "it's about to get cold in here." I think he takes Man-Bat in a fight.

M is for...Mermaid. The top half is mini-lady, the bottom half has a tail. This is the only way to lure minifig Tom Hanks out of hiding.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Book happenings and dancing puppies

Hey Jonathan, what's new with the book this week?

So much, Internet, thanks for asking. You are more considerate than you have been portrayed in the media -- I'll remember that the next time I think badly of you. Onto the book...

I recently finished looking at the page proofs -- which is realistically my last chance to catch mistakes in the proofreading and copyediting process. The index will likely be ready at the end of this month -- I look forward to seeing words like Millennium Falcon and Rocky Balboa out of context.

Galleys (an early, printed version of the near-book) are likely headed out into the world soon -- meaning that the number of people that will have read LEGO: A Love Story will be rising exponentially. This is when one's heart races irrationally and you find yourself singing to animals and babies (although in the interest of full disclosure -- that happens every day in my home -- I just don't usually pick up the dog by her front paws and dance with her).

In the interim, I have been seriously considering bedazzling a denim jacket with the book's title and release date. This would only require the purchase of said jacket, a Bedazzler, and wrangling an invitation to an awards ceremony.

Image via fde comite.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Three steps to creating a new adult fan

The thing about obsession is that it's often fun to get somebody else hooked. You can see their interest growing with a casual mention of wanting to play with LEGO bricks or remarking on the cool design of a particular set. As such, here are three simple steps to converting someone into becoming an adult fan:

(1) Give them a small set in a style of building that reminds them of their childhood. If they were an animal lover, get a Creator set. If they though they'd be an astronaut, then try one of the Space impulse sets. Go small because the sets are easy to build -- everybody wants to have success when they're trying something new -- and the completed set often ends up on their desk or shelf. Which leads to step two...

(2) Now that that they're thinking about building, casually mention that you've got a bigger set in that genre. If you liked that space speeder, you should see the Death Star that's just waiting to be built (this requires you to not immediately open a box such as the Death Star when you receive it). Pair this activity with beer and a movie. You'll be amazed how quickly the beer and movie are set aside.

(3) Share. Share your collection, give LEGO sets during the holidays. Channel your inner, thinner Santa.

Image via jonathanb1989.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

LEGO and Atlantis -- a year too late

Today is the first time I've ever felt like I started the book project a year too late. And that's because I just found the press release which notes that LEGO and the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas have struck up a strategic partnership.

While it was outstanding to visit Denmark, Seattle, Chicago, Ohio and Michigan in pursuit of LEGO fans and creation, it would have been nice to visit the Bahamas in the name of book research. None of the locales I went to are likely to be mistaken for the Caribbean.

Once in the Bahamas, I could have done important work and finally discovered why I am unable to tan. For now, I will have to resort (yup, that's a pun) to purchasing Atlantis sets -- in order to make it through the harsh winter here in Kansas City. But there's a minifig with a sharkhead, so I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Regardless, I'm excited for the master builders that get to lead five-day fantasy camps in June. Getting paid to play with LEGO bricks while staying in the Bahamas is a job that I'm sure falls into the category of dream.

Image via roguebantha_1138.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Failure of copyediting or imagination?

LEGO has produced instructions that are designed to be interpreted -- picture-based steps that can be understood in any language and by a huge range of ages.

But with interpretation comes Internet debate -- this is the price we pay for the ability to see the Dramatic hamster. Over at the FAILBlog last week (thanks Nikki for the link), a picture of an instruction page was uploaded from a LEGO set that apparently shows a 1x3 plate being placed onto a 1x4 section of baseplate. The fuzzy math and intentions of the set designers have then been bandied about in the comments sections.

The discussion is not for the faint of heart. Studs (the tops of LEGO bricks) are called bobbles, Ben 10 is dismissed as a new theme, and plenty of M.C. Escher references. It's up to you to decide if this is an epic fail or merely a matter left open to interpretation.

Image via FAILblog.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Groundhog Day -- More Time To Play Inside

The Ice Queen from Narnia, Yetis, and lumberjacks are all pleased this morning as Punxsutawney Phil -- the Pennsylvania groundhog who is our only weatheranimal -- has seen his shadow and thus it is foretold, sans bluescreen, that we shall have six more weeks of winter.

It's Groundhog Day, but if you think this special occasion trumps the celebration of LEGO bricks here at BrickBender -- you haven't been reading long enough. Speaking of which, hello to you new reader in Greenland. I'm excited to know what the Internet is like there.

Should you look to recreate this historic moment in LEGO bricks -- the shadow-seeing, not the Greenland-viewing -- you've got a few options. The LEGO retail stores are sponsoring a free monthly mini-build for kids today (here's another photo from a store window of the LEGO groundhog and snowman from January). You could also build your own vignette like Brickshelf user Nermal, depicting the moment of truth.

Image via VignetteBricks.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Your very own LEGO iPad

It has been making its way through the Interweb over the weekend, but Joe Meno -- the editor of BrickJournal -- has unleashed his building skill on the world to celebrate the design of a company he loves.

Joe has built a LEGO-ized iPad -- complete with apps and an Apple logo on the back. The build is to scale and is a great demonstration of a studs up build, wherein LEGO bricks are stacked atop one another -- the same way you stacked bricks as a kid -- except you likely weren't building a sweet tablet computer.

Joe's one of the first people I met who had an iPhone and still remains one of the savviest users of the device. I hope he gets an iPad for Christmas.

Image via Joe Meno