Ted Talks: An AFOL’s Journey to Enlightenment

Welcome back to the third edition of Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes tackles topics that are near and dear to his heart.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!


I’M THE DARK KNIGHT!!! Artwork by polywen

Are you ready to read yet another AFOL’s boilerplate “coming-out” backstory?  Me neither.  Despite that consensus, it does make perfect fodder for an article (along with minifigs, replica models, and critiques).  This one’s my story:

My 1st LEGO set was…

Lame.  Seriously lame.


I received this police set for my birthday in 1977, and I was not impressed.  My aunt was telling us that LEGO was a toy company in Denmark, and that their building block sets were the “hottest toys around”.  This police set was one of the only sets she could find.  “What eva”. Spider-man was my thing back then, and soon after the original Battlestar Galactica (and that recalled  Cylon Raider toy I had was so rad!!!).  Besides, who the heck were these stumpy, no-armed torsos that LEGO called police men going to arrest anyway?  Some random stack of 1×2 bricks?  Pfft, please.  Maybe they could hop around like pogo-sticks, or play “steamroller” with each other, but that’s about it.


That birthday, I also got a set with some of those moon-faced maxi figs (or whatever the heck they are called – I don’t keep up on all our LEGO geek-speak). It was probably the set below.  I remember that it had some big spoked wheels.  I sure hoped that LEGO would include more wheels in their sets someday…  They could keep all of those stumpy, no-faced figures to themselves in Denmark for all I cared.  You’ll find no nostalgia here.


What eventually got me hooked on LEGO was…

Space minifigs and the “Space Shuttle” set!  Hot damn, were they cool!  Maybe those toy builders in Denmark knew what they were doing after all!… Minifigs with posable arms AND legs!… And faces?!…And look at all those GREEBLE PARTS!…  And angled plates!?…  And a RAY GUN!?!  … And what a cool space logo!!!

The “space shuttle” flew into my life on Christmas Day, 1979.  I swooshed that thing everywhere.  I had an epic swoosh-fest when we went to Christmas mass later that morning too.  Those church pew kneelers made the best space runways… Swoosh!….Hey. Maybe that’s why they are called pews… “PEW! PEW! PEW!”  From that point on, Space was always where my heart belonged.


“Pardon Me. Would you have any “LEGO Dark Age”? 

But of course…  My “dark age” began when I was 12 years old.  That was around the time that the LEGO catalogs started getting stale.  It was just more rehashed Classic Space sets, Castle sets, City sets, a Monorail we wanted but couldn’t never afford – rinse and repeat for next year.  I just got bored with it all.  I had diverse toy interests anyway.  At home, there was all the Star Wars playsets, the Erector sets, the original die-cast Transformers, and by then home video games started appearing on the scene;  TRS-80 Color Computer FTW!!!


My Dark Age became official when I gave my entire LEGO collection to some undeserving neighbor-kid… (despite being nice to him, he turned out to be such an annoying, lying weasel; any time he got into trouble, that turd would try to pin the blame on me somehow… sheesh.  EVERYONE knows you’re supposed to blame it on those anonymous “kids on the school bus”).  My LEGO collection wasn’t all that large at that point, so “don’t cry for me Argentina….”

 “The truth is I never left you…”

So a few months after I gave away my entire LEGO collection, we learned that my mom was pregnant with my soon-to-be younger brother.  Damn.  Sorry bro.  No “hand-me-down” LEGO sets for you!… But this was actually a blessing in disguise.  We would need to get him new LEGO sets now.  By the time he was of LEGO-age, LEGO themselves were starting into their first “Golden Age”; the advent of Blacktron, Forestmen, and those wondrous Pirate ships.  I was off at college by then, but on my visits home I would always look forward to helping him build his latest sets (and I was soooo tempted to take a Blacktron minifig back to college with me when I left).

And once he got too old for it?  Well, he never truly did, but around the time he might have my sister gave birth to my nephew.  The “Circle of LEGO” would remain unbroken.  I’d eventually get my nephew a new LEGO set every Christmas, which got me back onto that wonderful LEGO Catalog mailing list.

“All Aboard the AFOL Train!”

Sometime in 2002, I was flipping through the latest LEGO catalog and there I saw it; the Santa Fe Super Chief.  Wow, that was pretty damn cool!  I always wanted one of those expensive LEGO trains/monorails as a kid (again, who didn’t?). It was then that I first thought, “Hey! Why not buy a LEGO set for myself?”…  But getting a LEGO train layout started was still going to be pretty damn expensive, as I’d need the engine and at least 5 train cars, all that 9v track, a motor, power converter…and what will the wife think?  Hmm… It was probably best for me to save up and wait for next year, or so I thought.


New year.  New LEGO catalog.  No Super Chief.  WTF!?!  I went on-line to find out where it went.  Flippin’ retired?  RETIRED!?! It was during that desperate search for answers that I came across the Lugnet Train forum.  They had all the answers that I was seeking, and then some (SAVE 9V TRAINS!!!).  More importantly, I realized that the Super Chief was a fan designed engine, and these gents in the train forum were designing their own MOC’s too.  Well, of course they were!  “LIGHTBULB!”  So it was LEGO trains, Lugnet, and the builders in that community that brought me out of my nearly 20-year Dark Age.


Q: “What’s black, and white, and red all over?”

A: My LEGO part collection starting out again.

Starting over from scratch, my part selection sucked horribly, and my building skills were admittedly no better.  The starting point for my collection was the Hobby Train Set and the Corner Café (and all that 9v gear).  Lacking in bricks, eventually I designed a train using LDD and purchased the parts via LEGO Factory / “Design by Me”.  I thought it turned out great given the constraints.  I proudly took pictures of my “Pennsylvania Rail Road T1 Class Duplex Drive 4-4-4-4 Steam Locomotive” and shared them on MOC Pages and the Lugnet forums for all to see…

Well, that build that I thought was “pretty close” was a dud in retrospect (and let’s not even talk about my photography skills at the time – cringe).  Sava and Cale were kind enough to give this newbie AFOL a pat on the head, and some words of encouragement… but deep down, I knew I just built the equivalent of a rainbow warrior in the train world.


Look what I can do!

Trains weren’t the best place for a newbie AFOL like me to be starting out.  The creativity used for trains is predominantly focused on finding the right parts to make a replica model look as close to its real-life inspiration as possible, and to scale… and preferably in 7-wide.  Not having the parts to accomplish this, or the OCD passion that is hard-wired into these train folk, my train MOC’s were going to be DOA.

After that, I took a break from building and focused more on photography (only natural with that FOL migration to flickr).  Eventually, I was inspired to start building in the more “openly-creative” themes.  That’s when my heart found space again.  That’s also when I started plaguing brickshelf, flickr, the Classic Space forum, and the YCTA contests with photos of anything I could make out of those damn parts from the Hobby Train Set and the Corner Café.  I milked those sets to death, man!  Beat them into submission!  If you dare delve into the depths of my flickr photostream (I don’t recommend it), you’ll be able to tell.  The MOC’s are truly “black, and white, and red all over.”


But I kept at it, slowly building up my collection, poly-bag by poly-bag, clearance sale by clearance sale, holiday by holiday, and eventually Bricklink order by Bricklink order.  Note for any new AFOL’s out there; the sooner that you can “come out of the storage closet” as an AFOL to your friends and family, the better.  LEGO sets will become their go-to gift idea for you, and your collection will grow exponentially.

I built more and more, with various on-line contests being both my muses and measuring sticks on how my skills had progressed.  Eventually I got my first blog-age by the TBB back in April 2011 for the Bionicle/System infused beast below.  That was just the encouragement and validation that I needed.


The Parasite

So if you’re counting, it was roughly 8 years from when I took the first steps on my AFOL journey until I finally got blogged. I finally built something worthy of recognition by the “building legends” that I had been chasing for so long.  I wasn’t looking for any acclaim (and I’m still not… but that’s a topic for my next article…).  I was just looking for something to indicate that I was making some progress, and closing the gap between me and those AFOL artisans that I continue to admire.

I wouldn’t get blogged again until 15 months later, but that was even sweeter.  It was for the MOC that would eventually become my first significant on-line contest win; The “M-Wing” (not to be confused with Jon Palmer’s M-Wing… )


It was none other than Dan Rubin that blogged my M-Wing version… and it was none other than Dan Rubin who subsequently commented “Ok, the underside is a little disappointing …”  I could have just let the comment pass, but I wanted to know more.  If I was going to accept his favorable opinion of the top, then I needed to equally accept his unfavorable opinion of the bottom.  I reached out for his candid critique.

An aside: I know we’ve beaten the critique topic to death, but if you want a critique, ask for a critique.  Dan cracked open the door of the opportunity, and I threw it wide open. In this brave new on-line world, you have to ask for what you want.  It is YOU that controls that action!  Don’t just whine about how no one throws critiques around like they’re parade candy anymore…


“No one critiques my builds anymore…”

Dan replied, “I would either smooth out the bottom or greeble it up substantially more. Right now, it holds a middle ground that’s a mix of boring and ugly (those anti-studs make a bad impression)… I guess it either needs more style or more substance, but it’s currently not offering enough of either for me.” Truer words were never spoken.

This would eventually lead to my moment of “AFOL Enlightenment”, which is this:

-= Building a MOC based on a cool idea is not enough.  You have to give equal importance to the rest of the build, and commit to it like you will never take it apart again. =-


The “M” shape of the M-Wing from above was my “cool idea”, and I had nailed it… but Dan opened my eyes to the fact that I just ‘settled’ on many of my other part choices.  I thought they were ‘good enough’ in relation to the “M”, but in reality they were anything but good. Since then, I’ve taken that lesson to heart, and try to consider all aspects of the build.  If I can go at least a full 24 hours without thinking of some kind of improvement for it, the build is usually pretty well baked… admittedly though, I still settle from time-to-time, even if it is as small as a 1×2 slope.

The Journey Continues…

So from there, it has been a matter of having the personal motivation and inspiration to build.  Some times that motivation has been sparked by on-line contests.  Other times, it has been sparked by seeing a cool build from someone else that gets me thinking of building in new ways.  Sometimes it’s taking on a self-inflicted project, like the 8×8 x 52week vignette series.  Lately it has been driven internally, by wondering how I can expand certain themes in unique ways (steambugs, aeronaut speederbikes, space nouveau, etc.).

Finally attending a LEGO Convention in 2016 was like receiving that final “sacrament of confirmation” as a FOL. There is no more lurking anonymously behind on-line avatars anymore, and wearing the FOL badge when it is convenient.  That brick badge is etched with my name now, for all to see. The next phase of the journey has begun…

It has been great to finally get to know fellow builders in person, and put some real faces (and personalities) to their otherwise anonymous avatars.  It helps to keep people strait too, since so many have on-line screen names with “Brick”, or “Block”, or “Builder”, or “Model”, or “MOCs”, or “Lego” embedded into them.  (BTW – maybe it’s just me, but the people with “Master” in their screen names always seem to be the sketchy ones?…  Those “MOCs” guys?  Well, they’re ok, I guess…). We can certainly be a dysfunctional family at times, but that’s what makes for the most entertaining family reunions of all… Now, get over there and give your Aunt Carol a big hug.


“Public hours begin in 5… 4…. 3….”


And with that, it’s time to end this edition of “Ted Talks” with a mighty “SWOOSH….”  Shoot your flick-fire missiles at me down in the comments below.  “PEW! PEW!…” (…but please don’t shoot them down your own wind-pipe.  We don’t need another toy recall…)

– How did you find the FOL community (or did they find you)?

– Did you have a similar FOL journey?  What makes yours unique?

– Have you had any “moments of enlightenment” yourself?


Editors Note: By including this final photo, the author issued a clear invitation to critique by the Manifesto’s Style Council.  Unfortunately the photo is viciously cropped and therefore not ideal for a comprehensive analysis, nevertheless a verdict must be rendered.  The ubiquitous T-Shirt is boilerplate attire for the hungry, unwashed Lego-nerd masses, but this one breaks a couple of rules.  First of all, the shirt advertises a corporate football team instead of a corporate toy and everyone knows that sports and Lego are not compatible.  The other big problem is the particular sports team being promoted is objectively terrible, with an overall franchise win-loss record of  344-408 and no Superbowl victories in their 50 year history of mediocrity .

Since Ted is only pictured from the waste up, the Style Council must assume that he is not wearing any clothing from the waste down which actually elevates his status from mild to wild.  The pose also works in his favor, it’s evokes the flair of a Vegas off-Strip magician or a particularly snappy waiter.  After considerable deliberation the verdict is in:



40 thoughts on “Ted Talks: An AFOL’s Journey to Enlightenment

  1. Ha! Nice. I was hoping someone would eventually start a background check on us freaks. 😀

    Let me start off by apologizing for being a part of your first convention experience. I hope that my behavior was as reprehensible as I intended. 😀 Love the story and progress, I think we all got a swift kick to the pants when we found the online community. Rightfully so in most cases. Mine included.

    My history is admittedly strange.

    I had a box of basic bricks, nothing official, given to me at age four or five, ’75-’76ish. No prehistoric minifigs, no maxifigs, nothing other than bricks. Had three of those green 8×16 bricks that were “my world”. Civilizations sprung from the depths of those green continents and collapsed with the barbarian 1×1 brick hoards. Smaller sets were added here and there, but 1978/9 got me creamin’ mah jeans for the Galaxy Explorer. And I fucking got that bitch for Christmas! My civilizations were now ripe for orbital bombardment and they never stood a chance. But, alas, that damn ship managed to crash land in every room of the house/UNIVERSE where they promptly repaired, took off again, crashed once more, fended off aliens, defended against mutinies (mainly for hiring a retarded pilot that managed to only crash every time he took the damn controls), and soar off into another adventure wondering why they didn’t equip this damn ship with a chair. Life then turned to domestication for the little guys, retiring to their Lincoln Log cabins equipped with Lego furniture and accoutrements. Castles helped tremendously here, and being close to the sea, Pirates were always welcome.

    I never had a dark age, dim perhaps, but never dark. I had Lego and everyone knew it, tried making it easy for family to get me presents by continually saying, “All I want is Lego.” They just never figured out that it was a constant addiction that needed to be fed. So, I fed it on my own. Worked at my dad’s shop and any other side jobs I could do for neighbors to get the green so I could make the scene. My first “major” purchase was the 8860 chassis. I can still put it together from memory. Technic immediately replaced those fucking Erector sets, never really liked them, odd that, given my penchant for machinery and mechanics. ?

    Back in the mid 80s, the Orange County Register had an article about Lego buying land in Carlsbad to build a Legoland. What the fuuuuuuuck?! Life goal number one! GO!!! Except that it wouldn’t happen until about 15 damn years later. But I knew it was waiting; so, I actively took off down the road to get into design, art, architecture, engineering, and anything I could learn to be absolutely appealing to Lego. However, 15 years of waiting and getting on with life, I managed to refine my hopes and dreams into pragmatism and realism. I also understood that all the classes that would lead me in that direction were impacted and well beyond boring. I’ll stick with art. Not a choice I regret one bit.

    But it sort of turned me away from Lego, at least the trying to work for them side, and the community that might be out there. I still built, even after meeting my wife and us moving up to the Bay Area for work. I think that was the closest I had to a dark age in that rent up there takes ALL of your time. The wifey insisted that I put in more time with Lego as I am apparently a real asshole without a creative outlet. I think it’s a myth, but I took her advice and really got back into building again. The collection expanded consistently and I got back into my dream of building a proper Galaxy Explorer. The original was awesome, but it didn’t even have seats let alone head room. How were these smiling wankers supposed to explore the galaxy in this jalopy? SHIP time! I built several iterations then had one I was really pleased with; except for the roof section over the cargo bay. Well, I suppose I could check the interwebs for ideas if we can get the pics to load through dial-up. Enter Mocpages (and Nick Pascale as noted in a prior article.) That was 2013, I’m not very quick with technology.

    After that, I finished my SHIP and posted it. In among the comments happened to be one from some guy named Keith Gold-something. He happened to be barking some new online contest for some hack named Mike Ruther-whatever called Decisive Action. Contest? With Lego?! Well, why the fuck not. Entered the contest a week late but was welcomed nonetheless by all, except Deus (Love ya Luca, never change!) Had a brilliant time and as a result, entered more contest, won some, lost some (still think I was robbed with my circus fiasco against Nick 😀 ) But I found a real community. Also found VirtuaLUG. Okay, what the fuck is a LUG? Joined them, hit BW14 with 14 Triremes for the Odyssey and Emotitron. Had a blast! Hit BC and had a blast there too. BW15 I had a massive roll in the VLUG collab. Success again!

    But something was missing: The conversation. Mocpages was dead without me even knowing it and I was just filtering onto Flickr at the time. Within VLUG… Well, let’s just say that things went south for me. And others as well (trust me when I say that it got ugly and I own a large part of it.) This enlightenment was not one of joy, but of the realization that there are some evil fucking people in this community and that I should stick with the ones I know are genuine (disclaimer: not everyone in VLUG is evil, and those in there now, save one, are stellar cats.) I saw that people like Tyler Halliwell, Dave Kaleta, Heath Flor, Simon, Ted, and many others were those stellar cats inside and outside of VLUG. A ray of hope! Then came a little offshoot collab for a Bus Stop in Bucharest (The time of your life!) and a trip to the Mormon enclave of SLC. That was THE enlightenment moment for me in that I could see clearly that there were levels of genius without constraint out there (not Utah specifically) and online just waiting to be tapped into. And Mike.

    Then up pops David Alexander Smith’s blogs, outright fantastic brilliance, as well as the Bricks and Brick Culture mags. Then came the Manifesto. And here we are.

    Sorry for the tldr ramble. Too many enlightenment moments for me to really count or keep track of. It’s always new and fresh for me.


    1. Sweet read, my man. You’ll get no “tldr” from me.

      Really dig your exploration angle. Seemed like I’d always get the mid-to-lower tiered toy sets for just about anything (for example, getting C3PO and RD2D figures, instead of Luke and Darth Vader), so I can relate to the cross-universe exploration. Was a necessity.

      Erector sets were kind of a pain, due to the nuts/screws and the crappy sheet-metal wrenches you had to use to tighten them. They did make me an awesome rubber-band powered car though.

      I think the “everyone is NOT awesome” when it comes to fellow FOL’s is a valued realization. Not everyone is in their happy place, nor can be reasoned with… some people act badly because they’ve had a hard life, and then some people are just jerks…


      1. It really was those shitty wrenches. I had access to the best tools at my dad’s shop, and I was expected to build with this crap?

        And yeah, I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into all the grimy details in a public forum, but there are definitely those out there that are… well, just plain evil. The worst part is that it is impossible for them to figure out how much harm they are willfully incurring. They don’t get to that point by accident.


    2. Yo Matt, It’s pretty awesome to hear that the Manifesto, DAS’ work, and the recent magazines are the most recent step in your story. I feel like they’re just the beginning of mine.

      That’s exactly why I like this sort of article so much. It’s really neat hearing about history, but hearing memories, experiences, processes, how one thing led to another–that’s what really counts. It’s nice to remember that we’re all actually people (just realized everyone on here is probably close to my dad’s age), and that somehow Lego has been a decisive part of our stories.

      Where’s Decisive Action 3?

      Ted, put some pants on.


      1. I hate to sound cliche, but it’s always the beginning. As Ted hinted at, it’s sort of THIS moment in the process. And because we’re your dad’s age, we can sit on the veranda in the rockers if our nurses let us, sipping at our mint juleps, reminiscing about all the moments making the connections; that is if our addled, aged, atrophied minds can handle the pressure of not complaining about the kids on the lawn and their rocking and rolling music. Maaaaaaaaatlock!! jerk. 😉

        As far as DA3 goes, you’ll have to consult with heir Commandant Rutherford about that.

        And Ted, don’t put on any pants. I want to remember you festooned in that dirndl with the gold lamé cravat and matching stilettos. That was you, right? Damn you, Malort!!


      2. I always count it as a little victory when the Manifesto picks up a younger reader who actually has something to say in the comments. It’s like a young dude wandering into a VFW bar or an Elk’s lodge and buying a round.

        Decisive Action 3 is in the works, to coincide with the 2nd hiatus for the Manifesto once we hit 200 posts. We’re sitting at 137 Right now, so it’s still a few months away. It would be impossible to run the blog and the game simultaneously, as you know the game can be time consuming to say the least. In the meantime we’re working on a new map, new categories and a new wrinkle like the world court for DA2.

        Asking Ted to keep on his pants is like asking a rooster to stop crowing at daybreak. It’s going against natural law.


    3. Well that’s a story and a half! Awesome hearing about your ‘dim’ age and all the steps that have led you here. As VAkkron said, this article (and comments like yours) are brilliant at reminding youths like myself that even the best builders out there have these ‘discovery of the brick’ stories. This little piece of plastic ties together generations, which is something that continues to astound me.

      Still wishing my town had a LUG though…


      1. I don’t know dude, I think LUGs are kind of overrated. They seem great from a distance but up close they seem kind of boring, and the interesting ones all seem to split at some point and are never the same again.

        You should write your own Lego narrative, sure it may be a relatively short one, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be interesting or have value. I dig the younger perspective.


  2. Thanks for the fashion critique, Heir Maestro. I think if there was ever a need for a FOL version of Granimals, it would be now.


    1. Yeah, but what animal goes with a Bengal Tig… never mind.

      I refuse to take fashion advise from anyone other than Herb Tarlek or Huggy Bear.


  3. I hope none of my con photos are subject to the Manifesto’s Style Council. I couldn’t handle such a disapproving look from RuPaul. I tend to pack the least fashionable pieces out of my closet when I go to cons. Hot Topic graphic tees and cargo shorts have become my convention go-to.


    1. RuPaul’s appearances are typically limited to the “Two for Tuesday” feature, which is in turn limited to people I’ve met in person (who I know can take a joke), so I think you’re safe for the near future. Ted issued a clear invitation to the dance in the rough draft of this article and summoned RuPaul at his own considerable peril. It’s also worth pointing out that Ted could have submitted any photo and that’s the one he chose…the one where he looks like an upscale waiter…in a Bengals shirt. The Bengals. Well, at least it wasn’t the Patriots, that would have been insufferable, and at least I can’t accuse Ted of being a front-runner.

      Also, I wear pretty much the same thing to a convention as you do, which is to say, I have no style at all.


  4. Another great talk!
    You’re hitting these out of the park light the proverbial Louisville Bat near Peerless drunk on Against the grain IPA!

    But I’m sorry to say I really don’t want to read everyone’s coming out story.

    I want to hear them.

    I feel like these are incredibly interesting and potentially awkward stories best told over a pint or four.


    1. Thanks man.

      “I really don’t want to read everyone’s coming out story. I want to hear them. I feel like these are incredibly interesting and potentially awkward stories best told over a pint or four.”

      That IS the ideal, and it’s cool that you say that, but then there’s reality. Most of us only get the chance to get together in person at a CON, if at all, and who really wants to start in with that crap? Bor-ring. Stop being a sad-sack! Let’s go build! Let’s go sing Queen songs while building! Let’s play Battleship destroying actual MOC SHIPS we made!

      If this convo happens at all at a Con, it would probably be around pint #8, when someone would start to drunkenly tell their story to Aunt Carol. Then they’d pass out half-way-through their story on a pile of Duplo, leaving the rest of the people to build a MOC around the poor bastard.

      Plus, EVERYONE else has a story to tell too. We’d have to all become Dr. Manhattan to hear them all in person (talk about no pants…).


      1. I forgot to add… I also wrote this article for all of the “lurkers” out there whom we may never meet on-line, let alone in person. I was one of the Lugnet-Lurkers for some time. It’s true I first found Lugnet in 2003… but my first post (and first MOC) was 4 years later in 2007. I want to encourage those reserved, late-bloomers out there that it’s never too late. There are plenty of different paths to take in this hobby, and don’t be discouraged if you aren’t a LEGO-savant with your first MOC’s, especially coming right out of an extended dark-age.


  5. Ted, excellent read man.

    Lurkers and fests. Know what I always wonder about at fests? How many people do you meet on line, and maybe even establish a bad relationship with them… and then… they know YOU are going to be at the fest, but you don’t know THEY are there because they are just blowing in on public day… and so I wonder… how many of those guys look at you without ever saying “Hey, I’m that guy…”

    Ah the shit we wonder about….


    1. I haven’t wondered that myself, but I don’t doubt it happens – One time at a small show (just 10 of us displayers, if I’m being generous), I waved across the room to an AFOL attending publicly that I recognized, but they they gave back the “do I know you?” look. Passing my tables, they didn’t even bother to talk to me to even ask “do I know you?” I chalk that one up to a case of the Aspy’s…

      More often I run into people at the show that I wanted to meet, but didn’t realize who they were at the time. I get back home, see some flickr show recap and think “Crap, that was YOU!?” Too many anonymous handles out there, people. Stop hiding and get yourselves out there (thankfully FUBAR flickr has started showing real names for accounts if they are added)


      1. I have my flickr handle and my real name on my brick badge, but sometimes it would be nice if there was a space for an online handle on the official badges one has to wear, because on those the name is usually printed a lot larger than on a brick badge.


      2. True. It can be tough to read, as make it difficult to read the badges subtly, especially if they are pimped out with all the additional collab brics, etc. However, I think “Pasukaru” is one of the more distinctive ones out there, so it doesn’t get lost in the unwashed masses of the “Mr.BrickBlockBuilderofLEGOMOC97″‘s. What I ended up doing is printing out a sticker with my flickr avatar and adding it to my badge. I saw that Markus Rollbühler took that approach too at Brickworld. Take a note, all of you “Nick’s” out there 🙂


      3. I actually thought of adding my buddy icon to my brick badge, figured that everyone knows me from that pic of the steam tractor more than any name. I hate it when builders keep changing their icon, makes me have to read and that’s a lot of work. 😀 Other than that, I’ll just stick with my name, it makes it easier for me to remember in my normally inebriated state.

        However, having said that, I use my wifey’s account for Facebook because I don’t want anyone to know me there and it affords me a chance to really fuck with her family. Cussing, drinking, liking Conner’s taste in music, general mayhem, all great for really messing with the blissfully blind. 😉


      4. Yeah, I get that “holy crap dude… it was THAT guy from THAT thing!” moment.

        It’s maddening. I was talking to the Brothers Brick guy for like 15 minutes before I knew it was him. I always feel like a jackass in those moments, but your right. Everybody has a crazy online name like “Silversharknife” or “Boygiraffe” or “rowntRee”… My own handle took me a long time to think up. I like it, because it helps people remember… my name?

        So hears a question. Is it dumb to use your real name or your real name and initials as your on line name? I know it’s not the norm… I know lots of people want to be “Themightyjoe!” instead of Joseph Throckmorton… but is it dumb to go with your real name? Lots of people who are internet smart use the odd word names. Is it just because they can, or is there an operationally based reason? How dumb am I? (Stop. I mean how dumb am I for using my flat out real name… not literally… how dumb am I in total! We don’t have time to answer THAT question!).


      5. I don’t think it is dumb either way, as much grief as I’ve given the alias people here in this artcile/chat. It’s more of a matter of either a) a throwback to forum chats, and/or b) the George Costanza “worlds colliding” theory of things, and how much you need to keep them seperate; professional world, family/friends world, and hobby world. George could be “Bawdy George” with one crew, and “Fiancee George” with Susan (not that it mattered). Aliases allow people to be more “free speaking” to their respective audiences, and not worry about impressions made to the other ones.

        I created my flickr name as “Ted @ndes” as I was unemployed at the time, and was trying to manage my “on-line” image if someone did a name-search. This was back when it wasn’t as cool or mainstream to be an adult LEGO builder (relatively speaking). When you are unemployed for an extended period, you don’t want to leave anything to chance, and I wanted to ensure a good impression to a wide audience (at least in a corporate world… UBER execs being the exception), while staying active in my creative outlets. This was one contributing factor in my lengthy lurking phase…

        Once I got blogged under my real name though, that kind of all went out the window… I still try to keep my professional (LinkedIn) seperate from the friends/family (facebook) and the FOL (flickr), as the are generally 3 different audiences that want to see/read 3 different things from me… there are always exceptions, and now some of those lines have been blurred…


      6. ah yes. Figuring out who’s going and who they are….
        Bane of online AFOLs everywhere.

        BFVA actually is nice enough to give you a printed tile that you can put your avatar on. I wish more cons would do that.

        And you know a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. Unless you called them stench blossoms.

        But it is a big decision for all FOLs real name, alias 501st?

        To appease the mighty Ted, I’ll tell the story of mine.

        I at the time did go the full anonymous route.
        Not even my first name was shared. And hid behind a lame, yet I though marginally clever alias: Si-MOCs.

        Similar to many of the great that have LEGO in their names – Legohalic legoJunkie etc. The use of MOCs seemed cool at the time.
        Plus (spoiler alert) my stage name is also Simon. Or Si for short. As in Si-MOCs or MY mocs.

        Also, while never actually did it, I always planned on doing a build of the actual name Si-MOC
        Where the C would rotate 90 degrees to read: Si-MON

        Cause you know I love Mondays.

        I actually don’t know how can but enough people quickly figured out my actual name, despite me never really advertising it or included on my Bio….

        But, my true identify was finally revealed at my first Brick world. Yes I was registered under my real name. And yes lots of people figured it out/can read my badge but it was still easy to kinda stay under radar from most people unless they already or newly met me.

        But the final straw that required me to forever shead the invisibility cloak. And basically force me to put my name on Flickr was when stupid Bryan plastered my name on a projector and dragged me up on stage at final ceremonies and after that the gig was up.

        No more pretending to be Nannan 😦


    2. Ah, the online handle. I wouldn’t say it’s dumb to use your real name. It certainly makes it easier to recognize someone, as Michael and rowntRee said. However, I wouldn’t say it’s dumb to use a handle either. Besides personal secrecy and privacy online, they can help add a bit of flair to a builder’s personality. Especially if the builder uses the handle as a way of self-expression or escapism from a boring life.

      I went for a mixture, because I’m indecisive. Wolff is my last name, for those who didn’t know.

      And Werewolves are just cool.


  6. OMG – I missed reading this when I linked out to the “recalled” toy story, but near the bottom is this gem of an excerpt from the legal suit against Mattel:

    “It’s certainly true that the firing mechanism should not have been so close to the loading area, but I don’t understand how the toy being “shaped… very similar to a penis… almost beckons small children to put the toy in their mouth.” Were penises that readily available when we were kids, just dangling from crotches like bananas on a tree? And, if so, were we encouraged to put them in our mouths?”

    Who says all legalese is dry and boring? ROFL!


  7. Forgot to thank you for that clip from Strange Brew, one I quote nonstop. Not sure if anyone noticed, but it’s the story of Hamlet. Seriously, read Hamlet then watch that brilliant movie. Pure genius! Bob and Doug forever!! TAKE OFF, EH!!!!


  8. Simon,

    “a lame, yet I though marginally clever alias”

    Anybody who makes me laugh at 1600hrs on a THRs is truly gifted.

    And Ted… your now the mighty Ted!

    Just came up for air. Returning now to standard running depth and cruise speed…


  9. A boilerplate topic for sure, but it’s boilerplate for a reason and your realizations along the way make your story meaningful beyond mere curiosity about your past. Your “enlightenment” especially resonated with me:

    “Building a MOC based on a cool idea is not enough. You have to give equal importance to the rest of the build, and commit to it like you will never take it apart again.”

    Like a convergent evolution, I came to a similar conclusion somewhere down the line. I think many of us did. Though when I view the work of others, the idea is still the most important part to me and I will often prefer unpolished but unique builds over stuff that’s more technically impressive. I have a handy catalog of techniques already and don’t check the techniques pool unless I’m stuck, so I have more to learn from ideas, which are infinitely more infinite than techniques.

    Here is my own addendum to your aphorism: it’s not enough to be well-executed, but to be carefully executed. The parts should support a greater whole.

    I know a lot of builders have an initial idea and then let the bricks take it in a completely different direction depending on how the parts flow together. And I see nothing wrong with that. But my outlook and process is a bit different. I have a very specific vision in my head and even if the build goes in an interesting direction, I can’t escape that initial vision and if part of the build doesn’t conform to it, then I scrap it. It’s not enough that the build is interesting or polished; I want to express the lines and shapes that are meaningful to me. Anything less than that is a failure.

    They say we are our own harshest critics and I think that’s true of me at least. Ultimately, we all have the final say regarding our own work. If we agree with criticism from the outside, it becomes self-criticism. The first step to criticism is admitting that we might be wrong about something, however small or large. An invitation to criticism can be that first step. As Ted rightly said, you control the action.


    1. “I have a very specific vision in my head and even if the build goes in an interesting direction, I can’t escape that initial vision and if part of the build doesn’t conform to it, then I scrap it.”

      I do think that all depends on what you are building… and important to understand the difference between a “specific vision” and a “brainstormed idea”. The prologue to my M-Wing story was that my “initial vision” was to make a “G-wing” which was going to look like a hooded cobra from the side view using the white technic panels. However, after arranging the panels it looked like crap, and then after messing around with the parts, they led me to the “M”…

      For the cases where really I do have a specific vision and I hit a road-block, I’ll let it rest while I first pursue where the parts lead me… then come back later. That was the story of the “Scout”, and then the “Trailblazer”.



      1. It alternates between brainstorming and vision sometimes, for sure. But even when I’m just experimenting, there does come a point where the idea clicks and the vision becomes set in stone. That vision may evolve into something else if the first iteration doesn’t work out, and until recently that wouldn’t have bugged me and I would’ve been happy with the result as long as it was technically and aesthetically polished. But now it’s not enough for the build to look good; I need it to look good in the exact way I want it to. This is a source of frustration, unfinished WIPs, and builds that I will likely never show online or in person. If it was me, I would’ve been annoyed that the cobra design wasn’t working out and the G-wing would’ve remained a WIP for months. This is why I didn’t post anything for LSB or RW+200 this year; I still haven’t finished either of those builds yet—and this is after the first concept I had for RW+200 dead-ended after about a month and a half of work.


    2. Forgot to mention this in my original comment, but I also had a similar revelation following critical feedback. As I’ve mentioned too many times on this blog already, I lost some points in the speeder bike contest last year because my stand was sub-par. Granted, I had already demonstrated a love for detailed bases, but the critique brought them more to my attention and now I’ve become a little obsessed with them, maybe in the same way you are with underside detail.


  10. I’m sure I had a couple of small sets as a kid, but I was never that into it and I certainly couldn’t tell you which sets they were. My interest in toys ran in an entirely different direction. That Cylon Raider you linked to in the first paragraph was more my style, it was indeed a bad-ass toy, as was the viper and a few of the other vehicles in the line. In fact, the link to the Raider completely derailed me when I went to write this comment earlier in the week.

    I didn’t get into Lego until my mid twenties, Rutherford and I were buddies and it seemed like all of a sudden he was into building. Every time I’d come over he’d be working on something and while we sat and bullshitted I would inevitably end up building some tiny shack or mind control device or giant robot. I still wasn’t buying any of my own brick or taking too much of an interest until he showed me this huge raised aqueduct he’d built out of a single color (white). Up until then it just didn’t occur to me that such a thing was possible, to have enough parts and enough specific parts to build a big cohesive structure. It was crude by today’s standards to say the least, but it had a profound impact on me and I was buying shit a few days later. The first set I bought as a freshly minted AFOL was Nebula Outpost (6899).

    The other two big formative events for me was finding and posting on LUGnet, and going to my first convention, BricksWest2. Like Rutherford’s aqueduct, both of those things opened up my sense of what was possible with both building and the hobby in general. I could go on and on, but I’ll save that for another comment or article.

    Great job on this one Ted, you’re really hitting your groove with the series.


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