Bricks LA 2018: The Long Winded Tales of a Jaded Lego Nerd

They say that Lego blog readers don’t care about convention coverage, they say that unless you were present to join in the action personally it is impossible to appreciate the experience fully.  They even claim that people are resentful of parties they are not invited to.  While I don’t necessarily debate this sage and long-standing wisdom, I’m throwing caution to the wind to provide you with the unvarnished truth of my time in the city of angels.  It took me almost a full week to process everything that went down in order to compose my thoughts in a way that didn’t read like an embittered rant and even allowing for the interval I’m not sure I succeeded.  But I am confident you’ll let me know in the comments.  -Spoiler Alert!-  Bricks LA 2018 was in turns awkward, uninspiring and mostly boring, which is the greatest sin any convention can commit.

I journeyed to America’s second largest city in search of big-city adventure and excitement but found only regional boilerplate and the only fun was the fun we brought with us or had nothing to do with the convention itself.  For the T.L.D.R. crowd you can check out now, go back to your video game and jumbo-sized bowl of paste, but the rest of you should gird your loins and prepare for a deep dive into….mediocrity.  We’ll get into it later but this was the convention that made me realize I’ve become terribly jaded, almost incapable of enjoying the conventional traditions of our people. So if you were there and you think I’m being terribly unfair, take solace in the fact that this review may have more to do with my growing disenchantment with the very concept of conventions than the event itself.

This was Bricks LA, 2018.

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The Venue:

Bricks LA went down at the Pasadena Convention Center, which was nice enough, if a little on the generic side.  It had an overwatch balcony position, which was cool, but unfortunately you couldn’t see our layout from that vantage point, as we were placed beneath an overhang, next to the vendors.  After basking in the regal splendor of the UCCU Events Center in beautiful Orem Utah two years previously for the Brick Slopes convention (with it’s jumbo-tron, stadium seating and blissfully efficient air conditioning), anything less was bound to be a little disappointing.  On the upside there were plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and bars within easy strolling distance.  On the downside, parking was $15 bucks a day and there were not any other appealing options for the rental van.  Then there was the matter of the Air Conditioning on Friday, or lack thereof.  LA was a balmy 78 degrees that so-called winter’s day and the hall quickly became a wretched sweat-box that was a misery to endure.  When we asked for relief from the powers at be, we were told that it was beyond their control and wouldn’t be turned on until the following day.  It may seem like a small inconvenience, but it’s no fun trying to set up a display when you’re constantly mopping away the perspiration.  Trying not to drip on the project or drop whatever you’re holding is not an ideal situation.  Also it was day one, which meant repeatedly greeting fellow nerds as they trickled into the hall.  Believe me, nobody wants to perform sweaty handshakes much less engage in hugging behavior.  Even skinny-ass RauntRee was uncomfortable, his John Lennon glasses kept slipping down his hawk-like nose.  When I first laid eyes on Rutherford my eye was inexorably drawn to the deep crescent-shaped sweat stains beneath his tits of easy living.  It immediately put me in fear of the same condition, as we are both fat bastards, but fortunately I was well outfitted with a short sleeved plaid shirt that allowed for much more effective camouflage than his light gray T-shirt.  Even still, it was plastered to me like a second skin.  Fashion matters, people, has Rupaul taught you nothing?  So the venue was fine, the AC was turned on for the public hours, and although it was nothing to write home about, the venue was the very definition of serviceable.

The facility also employed a comically zealous but polite security captain who was obviously enjoying his second day on the job.  His big bust of the night?  No, it wasn’t the frequent “safety meetings” some of us conducted in the parking garage stairwells.  Although weed is legal in California I doubt very much it is permitted on the property.  It wasn’t even the mystery thief/vandal who made off with a smallish TBB banner, it was something far more egregious. No, the good constable caught us red handed, a bunch of harmless middle-aged mankinder slowly sipping on Coronas next to the diorama during private hours, and after making us aware of the venues policy on the matter he followed us diligently until we poured them down the nearest drain.  He wouldn’t even let us drink them in the afore-mentioned parking garage like gentlemen degenerates.  Were we scoff-laws?…Sure, but I’ve never had that happen at any convention, even in Utah.  I’ve seen people so drunk they passed out under the display tables where they slept the night away, I’ve seen people so drunk they can barely conduct themselves without vomiting or dry-humping the nearest staircase banister.  The worst part about the interaction wasn’t deputy dawg (he was actually pretty friendly about the whole thing), but that we were probably dimed out by another AFOL.  I have no iron clad proof of this, but I have strong suspicions.

The KOC:

For those of you who didn’t read Jake RF’s excellent article and resulting comments about our lexicon of stupid Lego acronyms, a KOC stands for Keith’s Own Creation.  In this particular case the KOC in question is The Wedding Party (A.K.A. The Boondocks Wedding), a collaborative effort in conjunction with the good folks at WackLUG.  The WIP process was exhaustively documented here on the blog, but ultimately it was only half of the picture and the diorama wasn’t completed until the first night of the convention.

Over the years I have developed a pattern with convention based models that begins with unbridled enthusiasm and a head-first dive into the initial process and culminates with what at best can be characterized as apathy and at worst outright hatred for the project.  It almost doesn’t matter if the project turns out well or substandard in terms of artistic quality, the sheer effort of the endeavor from concept to execution coupled with the logistical process of the event itself leaves me sort of burned out and unequipped to properly enjoy and fairly evaluate the model.  Even though the window of involvement this time around was much shorter than usual at just 6 weeks, I am still very grateful to the WackLuggers for stepping up enthusiastically and skillfully to populate the layout with minifigs and machines.  Jeff Cross was also indispensable in his role as Space Coordinator, it never hurts to have a staffer on the team and anything we needed from power source to parts was readily available.  Once we set up the table and brought in the unpopulated slab of plastic that served as the base, I was able to step back and breathe easy while the cronies did all the important last-minute work for the project to be a success.  Knowing this pattern of mine, it was more or less my plan from the beginning to let them take over and ultimately it was the most collaborative aspect of the endeavor and a good time was had by all, which is the most important thing.  At the end of the day we built ourselves a great clubhouse to serve as a both a rallying point and safe harbor in the roiling sea of humanity.

You may notice a couple of reaction shots from some of the rare black spectators in attendance, it was my informal goal to see if they noticed the preponderance of black minifigs on the diorama and surreptitiously record their reactions.  The reviews were overwhelmingly positive and it was good to see that at least a few people picked up on the Afrofuturism going on in the diorama.  Unfortunately the theme was mostly lost on whitey, to include our fellow builders, one of whom tried to convince me that the minifigs were Nigerians despite the prominence of the Ghanian flag and my assurances that they were not from Nigeria.  One notable AFOL wondered aloud in a decidedly clueless fashion why there were black people with spaceships, as if it was a bizarre notion.  When I replied “Yes Abner, black folks are allowed to participate in science fiction and even go to space in real life“, he simply shrugged dismissively and moved on like it was some kind of inside joke he couldn’t grasp.  And he probably wonders why the conventions are so lacking in diversity.  One of my few regrets from the weekend was not engaging more with the public to plumb the depths of this issue, but at the time it seemed like a terrible option.  I just can’t muster the enthusiasm to deal with the public anymore, I consider the vast majority to be an inconvenient distraction that forces us all into free labor for the convention, providing both security and customer service, all while we pay good money to be there.  Told you I was a jaded son-of-a-bitch.

Generally speaking I’m stoked with the final results, the big old KOC looked great!  The public certainly seemed to enjoy it and I can say without any doubt whatsoever that it was the most creatively original model in the ‘Space’ section and arguably in the entire convention where every other model seemed to be Star Wars themed or based on a preexisting building or intellectual property. The ships and vehicles were top drawer and the minifig-action certainly drew people in, often for a second and third look. If pressed I would say that Zach’s ship with it’s vibrant engine effects and the cave o’ doom were standouts, drawing the most comments from the spectators.  I’ll definitely be adding that swirling Halloween light to my bag o’ tricks going forward, even on the brightly lit convention floor it drew in the rubes.

Without the benefit of a MOC card (which I purposefully disposed of), most people still seemed to grasp the basic concept that they were looking at a wedding playing out on a far-flung world, so mission accomplished! Why did I dispose of the MOC card and a replacement MOC card, you ask?  First of all, I hate them conceptually and find them especially intrusive where dioramas are concerned. They are fine for stand-alone models but even when they are tucked under the base plates and hang down, I find them to be ugly.  The second reason was that the award voting was based on a number displayed on the MOC cards and I wanted to take the diorama out of consideration for a trophy and prize.  In hindsight that was probably a crappy thing to do to my co-conspirators, although I doubt they care all that much, but I’ve become so jaded with the focus, process and management of awards that I’d frankly prefer to see them done away with.  For me they are a distraction and ultimately not worth my time and consideration.  If we’re going to do awards as a group I’d much rather see them doled out exclusively to newcomers with an emphasis on younger builders who might benefit from the adulation and encouragement rather than a jaded burn-out like myself and the cronies.  For those of you keeping score at home, we apparently (I say apparently because as usual the numbers were not made public) the diorama came in second place for ‘Public’s Choice’, losing out to the much larger and whiter battle of Hoth.  Star Wars trumps everything, it’s gross but true.  We were, however, awarded the highly questionable “There is no I in team” award, that I’m pretty sure was made up on the spot by the convention coordinators to make sure our contingent didn’t feel left out at the closing ceremony.  I can’t say for sure but I doubt that specific award was handed out last year and I doubt it will be handed out next year.  I guess they assumed I would pitch a fit if I didn’t get something.  Included with the trophy was a cool Nexo Knights set that I greedily kept for myself along with some collectible minifigs that I distributed to the cronies for services rendered.  To recap, for a 6 week diorama I think we kicked ass and certainly had one of the more interesting models in the show.  Thank you WackLUG! you guys made it all come together…but more about the homies next.

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The Cronies:

Early in the mist-shrouded days of my convention going career, the great Ley Ward explained patiently to me that these communal gatherings were more about the people than the models or even the event itself.  At the time I was unprepared to receive this axiomatic pearl, I was in it for the building action, the glory, the adulation of my peers and of course the awards.  Now I’ve come full circle and I find the people are just about the only thing that matters.  The one thing that made this surprisingly looooooong weekend bearable were the good folks of WackLUG: Jeff Cross, Andrew Lee, Zach Clapsadle, Brendan Mauro and his wife Jenna.  Without the fellowship of the homies I might very well have left early and spent the remainder of the weekend in Vegas with rountRee and Rutherford.  I immediately felt at ease and at home, which was all the more appreciated and important when compared with the reaction from the other locals which ranged from quiet indifference to sort of passive-aggressive hostility.  When I tell you we had convention within a convention it is no exaggeration, these guys were the event for me and I’m eternally grateful for all the hospitality on the Thailand express.

As you can see below, in addition to the Wedding Party I also brought an eight year old micro-scale model built by Ryan Wood and others called The oMICROn Weekend, a pint-sized knockoff of the original, along with Mike’s flying ambulance and a greenhouse module from Ryan Rubino’s wheel-shaped facility.  While I brought the model in a box, when push came to shove I couldn’t summon the interest or energy to assemble the thing on site and I was content to leave it literally under the table, to await the van ride home.  The cronies had other plans however, and during the mixer everyone threw in to piece it back together for the final public day.  The didn’t have to take that extra step, but that’s how WackLUG rolls, and again I find myself in their debt because despite it’s age it managed to draw quite a bit of attention from the public.  The act even served the convention at large because open table space wasn’t exactly a premium, especially in the sci-fi section of the hall.

Long time crony Andrew Lee had an epic surprise in store for the crew, it was in fact, without a doubt the best SWAG I’ve ever received at a convention.  He came bearing gifts of great cultural and nostalgic value, a box full of starfighters built by the great Jon Palmer that somehow survived long after his exit from the hobby.  Even though they may seem dated by today’s lofty standards I can assure you the fighters were hugely popular at the time of posting; artifacts from one of the most influential builders of the early days of the hobby.  Andrew doled them out with his trademark grin while we were relaxing in the inflatable chairs you see in the collage above, deep inside the panic room where builders seek refuge from the masses during public hours.  It was a fine plan and the furniture was surprisingly comfortable but they had one fatal flaw for portly gents like myself.  It was impossible to extricate oneself from without considerable effort and embarrassment.  I had to sort of roll to the side and fight my way out of there, the chair sticking to my sweaty back like a turtle shell.  It was totally worth it though, the fighter instantly became one of my most treasured Lego related objet d’arts, and my attempt to simply stand up provided some comic relief.  Cheers Chrome!

I’d also like to give a special shout out to Zach who selflessly served as our steadfast pitchman for the diorama.  He stood tall on the firing line, absorbing and enduring all the familiar bullets from the public with a smile: Did you build this? How many bricks?  How long did it take? What is it?  This may seem like a small detail if you’ve never been to a convention but the job can be exhausting when stretched over 16 hours and his willingness to perform the task was HUGE for the rest of us.  At least he was rewarded by getting to hear the adulation for his engine effects, that shit was stunning in person.  I’ll spare him the story about dramatic entrances and EMT’s, I wouldn’t want a shirtless photo of me covered in ECG leads online and some stories are better hinted at than spelled out in grisly detail.  I still included a picture of all the leads stuck to a plastic box for some modicum of proof.

The cronies were also responsible for the best part of the weekend, which unfortunately had nothing to do with the convention itself. On Sunday when everything was back in the van and a surprisingly small number of goodbyes were said, roontRee and I were invited over to Jeff’s wondrous Legoratory for one last hangout before the curtain came down.  After eating restaurant food for three days, his wife’s Julie’s curry chicken was just what the doctor ordered.  Although Jeff’s Legoratory is impressive and one of the best I’ve seen, Lego quickly receded to the background in favor of his exhaustive collection of toys from the ’70s and ’80s.  The man possess just about every significant toy from my childhood, no matter how obscure.  Hey Jeff, do you have a Dinky Toys Enterprise?  Bam, I was holding it!  Hey Jeff, do you remember Starbird?  Bam I was swooshing it around like an idiot, delighted that the sound still worked!  I didn’t expect to encounter a time machine during my time at Bricks LA, but thanks to Jeff, that’s exactly what I got.  So cheers to Mr. and Mrs. Cross for saving the weekend,  you guys are always welcome in Vegas.

The Money:

I’m going to make this subsection as fast and dirty as possible for two reasons: 1. Because you’re a slut and that’s the way you like it…and 2. I’m approaching Rutherfordian levels of gasbagging with this article and I prefer to let the numbers do the talking.  Hey! At least I didn’t spend a page defining basic terms like convention, mediocrity and community.

All dollar amounts have been rounded up for your convenience.  I will say that I came in just slightly under budget with some big help from roontrEe, but it still stings a little because the convention was a drag and I could have spent the cheese on something a hell of a lot more fun. Obviously it is possible to have a convention experience for a fraction of the final number you see below, but I thought you might be curious how much it costs to mount an expedition of this kind.

Registration: $65

Parts ordered for the diorama: $34

Combustible party favors for the safety meetings: $50

Manifesto SWAG: $111

10ft rental van with insurance: $284

Gas for the rental van: $126

Parking for the rental van: $45

Food and off-site alcohol: $173

On-site alcohol: $120

Lodgings: (free, thanks roontRee!)

TOTAL: $1,008

The Staff:

Even though I didn’t have the greatest time, it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the Bricks LA staff.  Largely unsung volunteers like Jeff Cross, John Langrish, Josh Gay, Chris Wight, Brandon Griffith and others were both friendly and helpful throughout the weekend, representing the event in the best possible way.  It was especially great to see Langrish again, I met him when he was barely driving age almost a decade ago and he never fails to make me smile, he’s got an infectious almost little-boy enthusiasm that draws people to him.  I have mixed feelings about the performance from Show Coordinator Ayleen Dority, but it’s a pretty tough gig to please everyone and at the end of the day she did a fine job.  On the plus side, she was very available, approachable and friendly.  I don’t think I’ve ever had that much contact with the chief of operations at any convention, she checked in with our group in some way shape or form on each of the days.  Ayleen also did something I’ve never seen before: during the closing ceremonies she told the crowd that she’d be happy to sit down with anyone and discuss the process of starting and running their own convention, offering to reveal her tips and tricks of the trade.  I can’t emphasize enough how unusual and refreshing it was to hear a Con organizer offer such a thing.  Although I only entertain fleetingly vague pipe-dreams of attempting a Las Vegas invitational, it’s cool to know there is someone out there who is willing to pull back the plastic curtain to reveal how the sausage is made.

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Event Coordinators seem to reflect the character of the host city.  For the super-massive unwieldy carnival of BrickWorld Chicago, you need a belligerent walrus of a man to keep everyone and everything line.  Seattle seems to flourish under a fussy, hyper educated engineer type who stresses over everything, even when it’s running flawlessly.  The tag-team in Orem Utah are unfailingly polite and reserved, and their event comes off like a big church picnic.  So maybe it’s only natural that Los Angeles would be lead by a laid-back, laissez-faire, tatted-up, purple haired lady who has a smile for everyone.  I also give her props for a brisk opening ceremony.  I don’t mind if the closing remarks go long, but on that first day most folks just wants to set up and party.  I’ll also give her big credit for keeping the ticket price low for the public, these things are supposed to be family events and it was pretty good value for money from that perspective, even if it seemed a little light on actual models.

After all that praise you’re probably wondering why I have mixed feelings about Dority.  There is a two-part answer, and the first part has to do with her ability or lack there of to take feedback.  I kept hearing from various staffers and from Ayleen herself that she wanted constructive criticism about the event.  But on two separate occasions when I tried to give that feedback I was met with nothing but excuses and a consistent disavowing of responsibility.  I got the feeling that she really wasn’t interested in listening to what I had to say and that was a drag, it came off as disingenuous especially when delivered with a smile.  I wanted to talk about the $10 bottles of Coors product that killed the mixer, the lack of air conditioning and the lack of models given the size of the talent pool in LUGoLA, but she was only interested in telling me how none of that was her fault.  There was no real discussion, or if there was it was concerning the praise only.  Ayleen also made a point of repeatedly telling me it was okay if I “lit her up” on the blog, even though she also told me she that she’d never read the blog. The whole encounter was awkward, which as you’ll no doubt notice was a defining quality of the weekend.  For the second part of the answer you’ll have to wait for the section on Rutherford, consider it a spoiler.

The roontRee:

Your old uncle rahwntrEe had what might charitably be called an uneven or suboptimal convention experience.  The mere fact that he eschewed the opportunity to compose his own personal narrative concerning the weekend’s antics should speak volumes to every constant reader that frequents the Manifesto comment section.  Never one to shy away from an honest opinion or long-form reply, it surprised even yours truly that he had no interest whatsoever in committing his obscene and oddball thoughts to digital paper.  When I asked him on two separate occasions to jot down his thoughts, I believe his exact words (word) on the topic was “Nope“.  A price must be paid for such a steadfast refusal to provide free content to this blog of blogs, and that price will be suffering through my interpretation and summation of his Bricks LA experience.  He’s also deserving of a little payback for the Irish Goodbye, but we’ll get into that in due time.

On the plus side, our good forge-master from Prescott Arizona managed to take home the highly coveted “1st Place Space/Mecha” hardware for excellent in his chosen genre.  Designed by Space Theme Coordinator Jeff Cross (Octopunk), this is without a doubt one of the coolest trophies I’ve ever laid eyes on.  I tried to trade roontRee for my own pleasant enough but terminally generic trophy, but he was having none of it and I can’t say I blame him much.  I’m probably in the minority when it comes to the topic but I much prefer original, creative trophies like this one that are made by the home-team of local builders.  I’ve won my fair share of awards over the years and the only ones I care about remotely or bother to display on occasion are these one-off micro builds.  To turn the award into a MOC is a great complement the person on the receiving end, it implies a certain level of care, respect and bonhomie.  To say that The Bushmaster was well received by builders and public day rubes alike would be an understatement.  If you consult the photo-montage below, you’ll see one of  Bushmaster’s oldest and biggest LA fans, gesticulating in appreciation of the worthy SHIP.  Although the video of this interaction was somehow lost in transit, I can report verbatim what the elder statesman in the tan sport coat had to say to his adult son standing next to him: “It takes a certain kind of American to build a rocket ship like this, David, it takes a man with a set of balls…brasssssss balls.”  He said it low and slow, like he really meant it, like the boss in Resevoir Dogs.

I couldn’t agree more with the accolades, throughout the weekend I would find myself sitting next to Bushmaster, studiously attempting in vain to shelter myself from the public and I would inevitably notice some new and enticing detail, it’s the rare model that inspires rewards repeat viewings and it would have been just as successful at a big show.  Genre aside, it was simply one of the best things at the convention.

RoontRee was also celebrated far and wide for his inspired creation of the single greatest brick-badge in the short history of Lego conventions.  No, I’m not talking about the “Malort, I’ll have another” brick, although that was glorious in its own way and will no doubt entertain the hot weather crowd at Chicago’s Brickworld…no, I’m speaking of course of the timeless “Shut up, Rutherford” brick.  I’m still kicking myself for not thinking of it first, I could have been rocking that badge for the last ten years of Lego gatherings, spreading the gospel to builders far and wide.  The message is timeless and could easily be the official subtitle of this august blog.  Come hell or high water I will own such a brick of my very own, if not dozens that I can pass out to everyone I know.

Now it’s time for the less than great aspects of the Bricks LA experience as seen remotely through the eyes of our beloved Lego Jesus, or as I like to think of him, Arizona’s answer to Geddy Lee.  Right out of the gate, my typically reliable LA crony Andrew Lee set a bad tone for the weekend where rountRee was concerned.  When we first sauntered into the hall I sought out Andrew and after giving him a warm embrace I said something like “Hey man, You remember rountRee…“.  At this point Andrew adopted a strangely deadpan expression and said something akin to “Nah dude, we’ve never met”.  They had, in fact met on multiple occasions so the whole thing was awkward (one of the convention’s themes) and although rountRee downplayed it’s impact, it was kind of a bummer and just struck the wrong chord.  Relations definitely improved as the weekend wore on but I think it caused our old uncle roontreE to have some Vietnam-style flashbacks to his previous socially unfortunate interactions with another LUG at another convention.  I’ll round out the interpretive shit talking at my friend’s expense here, with a final anecdote concerning the $10 beer fueled mixer event on the second night.  It’s about 11pm and I”m $80 bucks into my bar-tab, mostly spent on shitty beer and watered down vodka tonics.  I had to suspend any Lego purchases from the vendors because I refuse to go to a mixer and not buy drinks for the cronies.  So I know the bar is closing in an hour…which is another sign of how great this mixer was…and I performed a mental tally of who I still needed to hook up with a $10 Coors product and I realized RoOntree was the last homie on the list.  I looked around, I asked around, but no ‘Tree could be found…he’d simply vanished without so much as a word or gesture to anyone.  To my shock and awe, the greatest drinker I’ve ever encountered in the AFOL world had abandoned ship…given me the Irish Goodbye., The Irish Goodbye!  To me!  Unacceptable!

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Rutherford and left the mixer penniless and over a few glasses of really good $7 beer at a nearby restaurant purchased on credit, we porked out on greazy pizza and speculated on our friend’s fate.  Was he abducted by bikers who confused him with an undercover prospect named “Cutty” ?  Had he relapsed into black tar heroin abuse, headed south on Interstate 15 with a trunk full of dead bodies?  Had he finally completed a state of transcendence and became one with the universe?  Had he decided to defect to the adjacent yoga-pants / man-bun convention?  Our theories were numerous and turned darker as the night wore on, but it turns out he went outside to talk to the wife and decided to go to sleep early.  I told you the mixer sucked…but did I mention the $10 Coors products?

Long story short, I think my favorite Art School Girlfriend would rank this convention at the bottom of his multi-city resume, despite his well-earned victory for Bushmaster and a few fun moments here and there.  It was weird, at times awkward (there it is again!) but mostly boring.  Irish Goodbye notwithstanding, the man’s greatest value to me personally was in the logistics.  The list of Lego nerds I’d want to be stuck in a van with, blasting through the Mojave desert for 8 hours without a radio is pretty short.   Without his skillful aid as a spotter, I would have taken out signage and at least one water pipe in the parking garage alone.  Generous to a fault, Matt also sported the hotel accommodations, which allowed me to spend more vigorously on the rental truck, gas, SWAG and associated whatnot.  Bullshitting with Matt made the trip seem more like 2 hours and I’m hard pressed to think of a dude who has come to be a better friend in such a relatively short period of time.  He was also cool and engaging with my kids and put together last-minute minifigs with my 6-year-old for hours prior to departure.  Even if the con wasn’t the greatest, it was a blast to hang out with Matt.

The Rutherford:

Simply put, the Manifesto’s resident Lt. Colonel was on fire!  Like strapped to a burning wheelchair on fire!  This scene from the 1986 film Manhunter accurately depicts what it was like for the bored, distracted people in the audience once Mike grabbed the mic. They simply were not prepared for the impact of his arrival.  Just substitute a smart phone for the newspaper in the clip below and you get a great idea of what it was like for the average spectator to be in the conference room when our man from Kansas hit the stage.

In a decade of conventioneering with our beloved officer and gentleman, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him leave such a mark on a Lego nerd gathering. Usually he toils unrecognized in the shadow of my pseudo-celebrity, more often than not cast in the role of comic relief sidekick, or derivative crony, but not this time constant reader.  I might as well not have been in the same building this time, it was the Rutherford show and it was glorious to watch.  Mike has presented various Lego topics (usually collaboration) in six different cities, to varying degrees of success and occasional infamy, but this time I’m happy to report that he delivered the goods and actually delighted the capacity audience.  As much as it pains me to concede…Mike’s got a gift for public speaking that he has honed with repeated use in a professional capacity and these were his best performances to date.  I’ve sat through dozens of panels, keynotes and presentations over the years but none were as entertaining as the two he delivered at Bricks LA.

On both occasions the room was full and unlike past speeches, nobody bailed early except for some public-day rubes who were obviously in over their heads and were probably just looking for a place to escape the thronging masses for a few minutes of rest and a Go-Gurt.  The rarest of all things happened when people actually lined up to speak to him afterwards, showering him with questions, observations and pure adulation.  An art professor congratulated Mike on his in-depth dive into the cultural importance of critique and a fan/collector of oddities shared a rare, pristine example of a wooden Lego firearm after his presentation on Lego and violence.  I didn’t really appreciate the gun at the time, I thought it was some weird Nazi thing with a star of David on the stock and I wandered off for a safety meeting.  Even the convention coordinator, Ayleen Dority was so taken with Mike’s public speaking skills that she tried to convince him on multiple occasions (in front of many fellow Lego nerds) to be the key-note speaker for next year’s event.  Unfortunately it turned out to be a load of disingenuous bullshit, as she later claimed to be joking when pressed on the topic.  The cronies and I wasted an entire day trying to convince Rutherford that it was his best and perhaps only shot at delivering a keynote anywhere in his pathetic life and filled his head with visions of backing mariachi bands, sight gags, fog machines and glory, just to have it ripped away with a giggle and a dismissive wave of the hand.  None of that disappointment can distract from the fact that Rutherford finally had his day, I’ve rarely seen such quality engagement from the audience and so many genuine laughs.  If you ever get a chance to see him in action, you should take the time because he’s finally really good at it.

Still not convinced that Rutherford delivered the goods?  I was approached after his second speech by Josh Gay, an affable builder from Portland who we’d met a few  years before in Utah.  Josh Gay and his confederates were so taken with the presentation and it’s comedic elements that they were determined to create their very own keepsake of the event.  He’d noticed that I was video taping the speech and wanted me to pull a specific quote to make sure they heard it right.  A few hours later Josh and MIke were walking around with an engraved brick badge that read “Fairylicious”. In the coming days I will post the video for context but the point is that I’ve never seen nor heard of a presentation that inspired such an act.  Rutherford had his 15 minutes of fame, and he loved every second of it.

While he may have triumphed in the public speaking arena, the same cannot be said where his actual Lego related contributions were concerned.  After much pre-convention cajoling I convinced Mike to bring his SHIPtember offering from last year, the wonderfully tubular Demeter and I was looking forward to seeing it in person alongside my own entry and RoontRee’s.  I never got the chance though because the model didn’t even last 15 minutes past the point of assembly.  I wasn’t there to bear witness so I don’t know if it was the result of the copious quantities of sweat rolling off his fevered brow, or an ill-timed table bump, or the very hand of God himself, but that baby rolled right off the table and suffered serious damage.  Instead of doing what most builders would…take a deep breath, curse and begin repairs…Mike surrendered, just like France to the Nazis!  Yes, he surrendered to the tides of misfortune and quietly stuffed the orange and white debris back into his ridiculous camouflaged suitcase, muttering to himself like Popeye all the while.  To make matters worse he was prickly and dismissive when the cronies and I took him to task, refusing all offers of assistance and fell back on some paper-thin nonsense about needing time to prepare for his speeches.  His argument all boiled down to this: “But it’s too hard and I don’t want to“.  Believe me, there was nothing else going on at that boring-ass convention, no tantalizing distractions or key events that he was primed to miss out on. Rutherford, of all people, took the path of least resistance and surrendered without a fight to his very avoidable fate.  The cronies and I were looking forward to admiring his ship and he let us down.  Hell, he let the entire “Space” section down because there frankly wasn’t a lot going on and Demeter would have had one of the more interesting contributions.  In the end, the only thing Mike had to display was a 10-year-old flying ambulance, a magazine with said flying ambulance featured on the cover and a tiny horse-drawn cart that was swallowed up by the wedding diorama.

Speaking of which, Mike also let down the cronies and I by refusing to serve as the carnival barker for the diorama.  He has engaged in the behavior famously in conventions past, garnering well deserved high marks from anyone who saw him in action.  Again, Rutherford had some unexpectedly tired and wimpy rhetoric about being uninvested in the layout but that’s all on him.  He was invited from the very beginning of the process and chose not to be a part of it in a meaningful way.  And, his level of investment has nothing to do with his skill at the task or ability to perform.  In Utah the man was only nominally involved in our Bucharest diorama and still managed to delight the public day crowd with humor and friendly banter.  Fortunately for us, Zach was able to take up the slack and engage with the paying customers for eight hours a day as our point man.  Instead of stepping up, Rutherford preferred to engage in behavior that he typically lambastes others for: he sat behind the model with his back turned to the audience.  In essence, he surrendered…again…in the face of a modest challenge.

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There were other wacky hijinks where Rutherford was concerned, but they mostly fell into the “you had to be there” category and I won’t go into them beyond a basic description.  I’ll be happy to fill in the gaps in the comment section in the unlikely event that you guys find it interesting.  Topics include a delightfully unconventional harem of female admirers including a crazy cat lady, a biggun’ and….I can’t describe the third one without being hurtful but suffice it to say that she was a real charmer.  I can’t be a hater though, it was more female attention than I’ve ever seen him garner (including high school) and it was certainly larger than my own harem, which contained only roontRee.  Then there was the nudity.  Rutherford has clearly been too long in the company of men and thought it would be cool to parade around the hotel sans-clothing whenever possible.  So I opted for what seemed like the only retaliatory measure at my disposal, the cell phone camera.  Mike is operating under the belief that deleted all the incriminating photos but I think you know better constant reader.  I really had him worried when I mentioned casually over lunch that I forgot about the Flickr auto-uploading feature, and that his junk was literally on the internet…albeit set to private.  Mike’s brother also unexpectedly showed up for the mixer, and elevated the event from depressing to merely boring.

So it was great to see my old friend again, it seems like these days we only seem to meet in random cities surrounded by Lego nerds, but I’ll take what I can get.  What I can say without a doubt is that Rutherford enjoyed the convention much more than either roontRee or I did, and made a much bigger impact on the attendees.  I think his only regret was that he had to leave before the closing ceremonies on Sunday, although he didn’t miss much.

The Pokemon:

I approach conventions with the Pokemon slogan in mind “Gotta catch em’ all!”.  Even if it’s an awkward or bad encounter I live for adding another card to my ever-growing deck of AFOLs I’ve met in person.  I’ve never come away from a convention with fewer new cards than LA and there was a weird absence of late teen/early twenties aged builders that doesn’t speak well for the future of the local scene.  Sure, I picked up some duplicates and special editions of favorite characters but when it came to new magical creatures it was slim pickin’s for Goldman.  I did manage to capture Miro Dudas, Bill Volbrecht and a JPL engineer named Stephen Pakbaz, who designed the Mars Rover set from a few  years ago.  That particular encounter definitely fell into the awkward category (there it is again!), he’s a hell of a builder but I find him to be extremely off-putting socially.  He’s in a sub-group of our tribe who likes to walk around scowling at people and would no doubt have never troubled himself to greet any member of our foreign contingent if we hadn’t made a point to seek him out.  His outstanding NASA models were displayed right next to ours but it probably never crossed his mind to actually say hello to the newcomers. This video, while horrible in quality, somehow perfectly encapsulates an encounter with the dude.  You can briefly see him demonstrating a beautiful mechanism, a genius technique that is deserving of heartfelt accolades, but the video (much like the encounter) ends as abruptly and with about as much finesse as the AFOL in question.  Rutherford was right that the technique would better for a sea creature where the slowness of the hypnotic movement would look more natural.

It’s probably shitty of me to single him out because A: he’s a victim of the affliction commonly referred to as “resting bitch face” and his antisocial behavior was hardly unique amongst the attendees of Bricks LA, they simply were not a friendly bunch.  I know all about laid back, I spent my formative years in So-Cal and I’ve been consistently labeled as such, but this was more akin to self-absorbed indifference, and there was a lot of that going around the convention hall.  Every encounter I had to initiate myself, and that gets old pretty quick.  I’ve never walked away from an event without making a new friend, or giving out all my SWAG but I guess there is a first time for everything.

More alarmingly, people I once considered buddies seemed to have no use for me, like Bruce Lowell who was a key figure in the early days of the hobby for me, he’s been to my house, we’ve built and travelled together but if I hadn’t sought him out to say hello and goodbye, I doubt he would have said a word to me and that was a huge downer.  I had a couple of encounters that were similar enough in tone that it caused me to tighten up over the course of the weekend instead of relax.  Then there was Abner…dear omnipresent Abner…the walking encyclopedia of the hobby who never builds and rarely shares his vast knowledge.  I thought we were all good (except for his strange attitude about black people in space), until our final conversation.  Midway through the interaction something clicked and I realized we’d had that exact same exchange each of the last four or five times we’d met and it wasn’t a comedy routine.  Abner’s one of those guys who must have read the 7 Habit’s of Highly Effective People or How to Win Friends and Influence People, because he’s memorized four or five facts about me and uses them in a very scripted fashion.  I’m not exaggerating, I can recite the lines verbatim from memory, here is just a small sampling: “So when are you starting getting a convention in Vegas”, “How come we never see you anymore” (we saw each other less than two years ago in Utah) and “So what’s up with KeithLUG, what’s that all about?”  It was, again, dissapointing because it came off in such a disingenuous fashion.  This picture sums up the encounter perfectly and the whole LA scene in general (minus WackLUG and a few outriders).  Buh-bye Abner, same time next year?

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I’m also gonna throw in a weird anecdote more for my own benefit, so I can go back years later and remind myself that it really happened.  In the panic room I actually witnessed a man go to his knees, only to be mounted from behind (fully clothed) for the purpose of engaging in a grooming ritual.  It was my first time witnessing an AFOL haircut and is something that I’ll likely never see again.

The Models:

As I mentioned way back in the introduction, I came to America’s second largest city with the expectation of encountering an impressive and inspiring array of amazing models and was sorely disappointed.  There were a few highlights where the models were concerned but for such a vast and diverse talent pool (especially when you lump in nearby San Diego), the offerings on display lagged behind the smaller regional cons like Orem Utah, Portland Oregon and Houston Texas in terms of both quantity and more surprisingly, quality.  There just wasn’t enough to look at, and what was there was mostly bland Star Wars models or sprawling low-res dioramas that might delight the public but offer little to a seasoned builder or traveler.  I was really hoping that home town hero Dan Jassim would make an appearance, at least on public day, but unfortunately he was entirely absent from the scene.  One of my most cherished aspects of any convention is walking the hall with trusted cronies and critiquing the models.  The question that kept popping up this time no matter the makeup of the observers was “That’s it?” Just to prove I’m not a complete jerk, I’ll include a few shots of things that I did like.

Look!  I even liked a Star Wars model!

I’m gonna choke back the hate as much as possible and only mention a single model that left me completely cold….no pun intended.  I met the guy who built this a few years ago, Mark the Brickplumber, he also lives in Vegas and builds much bigger than I do.  He’s a nice guy, I have no complaints about his demeanor or social skills but this is your winner for best in show as determined by the public.  What the picture can’t tell you is how physically difficult it was to look at in person.  The light bounced off the tiles and curved slopes in little daggers in a way that made you avoid that end of the display at all cost if you were even remotely hung over.  One builder compared it to those “Magic Eye” optical illusion posters from the 90’s, that you had to squint at just right to appreciate.  Others called it a headache rendered in Lego.  Forget the fact that mighty echo base is reduced to an oversized igloo, for all it’s impressive size there just wasn’t much to it.  The little billboard for an aftermarket lighting company near the trench was a nice touch, as were the hovering speeder bikes that left parallel tracks in the snow for some reason.  Because of this model and what seemed like dozens of smaller ones, this show seemed more like a Star Wars convention than a Lego gathering.  So let this MOC be a lesson to you if you are gunning for best in show, go Star Wars and go BIG!  The public ate it up with a spoon.

The Best In Show award as determined by registered attendees was no less snowy, or boring and it even had a couple of Star Wars references.  No, no no, I don’t think my KOC should have won, it wasn’t big enough, or possess the kind of mass-appeal recognition for that kind of honor.  Canadian Winter Village by Dave Schefcik, Terri Landers & Wayne Hussey was well built and made a great deal of sense for the biggest accolade of the weekend.   The fact that I found it boring isn’t important in the slightest, when I showed my own kids pictures of it after the convention, they liked it better too.

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The Manifesto:

Reality check: nobody cared, nobody asked me about it, nobody has heard of it and nobody wanted the SWAG, even when Rutherford pushed it on them relentlessly, as a gift for showing up to his presentations and answering “check on learning” style questions.  The only reference I heard was a guy in the front row of Mike’s first speech, a true middle-aged mankinder who was there with his mother whose mere presence he seemed to resent.  Dude had a piece of metal crammed through his septum, sat cross legged on his chair and claimed to never have seen a single Rocky film. This paragon of Lego nerds took one look at the Manifesto brand poker chip said with a sneer: “What the fuck is this?”.  Cold blooded…but also the naked truth.  I came to the convention with the modest goal of finding just one constant reader and all I got was the trumpet of the damned…

The Aftermath:

I should have known I was in trouble early in the process when the local homies had this to say: “Dude, I wasn’t even going until I heard you were in” or “Yeah, last year was a shit-show” and the ever popular “This might be the last year if it doesn’t go well“.  Bricks LA is one of only two shows in reasonable driving distance for me and I just can’t believe that Orem Utah is the better option, even after seeing the evidence for myself.  The event did have the benefit of revealing to me just how jaded I’ve become since those early days when the conventions seemed to go by in the blink of an eye and left my head spinning for days with inspirational overload.  Now I’m closer to a jaded bitterman who takes no joy in the rituals, games and encounters with my fellow nerdkin.  I used to leave a convention scheming about how to get to the next one…what I would bring and who I hoped to see, but after LA I’m gonna need at least a couple of years off to recharge the batteries.  LA, all you had to do was beat the occasionally hostile BrickFiesta…and you just couldn’t do it, so now you reside at the very bottom of my list of conventions.

My final word on the topic…

Okay, that’s enough smack, even for me.  I refuse to end this rambling, bloated diatribe of a review on a downer so I’ll congratulate the staff and participants on an event that most of the 150 or so registrants seemed to enjoy along with the 5000+ public attendees.  I’ll close by raising my Bricks LA pint glass (one of the best pieces of con SWAG I’ve ever seen) and say a final “cheers” to rountRee, Rutherford, Langrish and my cronies in WackLUG.  Next time fellas, you should just roll out to Vegas and we’ll have a party.

*Rutherford’s take on the convention should be available in the next couple of days and will likely offer a more balance account of the weekend.

44 thoughts on “Bricks LA 2018: The Long Winded Tales of a Jaded Lego Nerd

  1. Lots to unpack here but first of all: Tagged I love you too!

    Having you and Matt over was a delight. I kind of felt like I was Boo at the end of Monsters Inc., picking toys up off the floor and shoving them at Sully, but fortunately Past Me took eerily good care of his toys so I have better material than most toddlers.

    Second of all, I was wicked bummed that Rutherford left before closing ceremonies, because before doling out the Space trophies I was going to do this:

    “And the runner up for Best in Space, Mike Rutherford’s Deme- what’s that? (to voice on pretend earpiece) It what? It broke? Well so what, it’s made of Lego, it’s back together right? What? He didn’t fix it? He shoved the pieces back in the bag? Well that doesn’t sound very fearless. Okay folks, sorry about that…”

    Back to where I started for a bit, I’m afraid I must slice through your jaded cranky bullshizz with my BLADE OF OPTIMISM. I had a fucking blast! Before you announced your intention to show up, Andrew and I were feeling pretty ambivalent about the whole affair. Then because you rallied the NoCal boys shook it out and got down here. We brought the party, as far as I was concerned. Your and Rutherford’s withering hatred for each other is buckets of fun in person. We had Mauro and Zach emergency altering the landscape because the landing ship NEEDED to be 45 degrees off the stud grid, because that’s what looks good. That’s how my homies roll. None of that was possible without your sandbox and that surging tornado of feelings packed in a crate marked OMICRON that serves as your personality.

    That said, there are a number of things you said that I agree with. But before I go ticking off bullet points, let me throw my blanket theory over everything, like some sort of blanket: THE DATE IS THE WORST. This is not a new theory, because a lot of people have heard of Christmas and New Year’s Eve and the stress that comes with them. And it effects everything, from the work on display to everybody’s disposition. I thought the stuff on the tables this year came in well under the bar set by previous years, and I think it’s because everybody was tired. And besides you clowns I barely talked to any of the various LUGOLA folks I like to hang with, and I think it’s because everybody was tired. And I didn’t play any games or really take in a lot of the models, and I know it’s because I was tired.

    Now, the Con had a bigger turnout this year, both for displayers and for the public, so it’s possible I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    Jebus, I’m falling asleep. I want to go on and on about this but I’ll have to follow up. This is a little unbalanced. I think at the end I wind up agreeing with quite a bit of your cranky hoo ha. Except about Pakbaz, you may get the chance to see a funner side of him some day. He had a cold.

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    1. Past you was a hero!

      I dropped the ball and forgot to mention the timing of the con, of course you’re blanket theory is quite right, it has to play a factor in the size, quality and vibe of the event. I know it was exactly that reason that prevented me from visiting the con sooner, but that time of year is a real pain in the ass. Coming off the holiday’s it’s hard to justify that kind of cash layout, I think most people are strapped that time of year. Even taking finances out of it, people tend to be exhausted right after the year turns over. I’m not sure if it’s the defining factor, and we’ll probably never get to that answer but does seem to be a major factor.

      Bricks LA may have grown this year, but after four years and again, given the size of the talent pool locally and in San Diego, I would have guessed it would be much larger by this point in time. Of course we’ll never know the numbers, but it would be fascinating to compare the first 5 years of LA to the first 5 years of Seattle, or any other con for that matter. I’d still put money on LA being stunted, but maybe that just goes right back to the date, people are less likely to travel to a con so early in the calendar year.

      As for Pakbaz…so he had a cold…that doesn’t really excuse scowling at people, refusing to engage, and acting in such an offputting manner when he does engage. I would counter with this, if you’re that miserably sick, then stay home? Look, I get it, I took it a little far with Pakbaz, he’s not evil, he’s probably not even a bad guy, but he’s not friendly or even courteous, and that goes a long way with me. He wasn’t the only offender either, at that particuilar con or any other. I’ve just reached a point of saturation with that tribe of lego nerds. I don’t care how talented you are, or if you want to use the excuse of ‘the spectrum’ (which is occasionally valid), shitty behavior is shitty behavior. I wanted to use him as an unfortunate example, but again, there is a downside to naming names and that decision has actually yielded the largest number of complaints from people who have reached out to me privately to express their displeasure. I would be both callous and unfair if I were to ignore that fact, but it’s too late in the game to edit the article. I’m obliged to stand by it instead of deleting the problematic parts as if I never wrote them.

      Always a pleasure Jeff, I was hoping we’d see you in the contest, but it probably wasn’t the best time of year for that either!

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  2. Well that was a longer visit to the toilet than expected. That’s where we all read these.. right?
    Appreciate your honesty in this. Though you might just be that cranky old man idk.. hmm

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    1. I don’t think there is any remaining doubt about my level of crankiness, people have learned to stay off my lawn and I have learned to stay away from conventions, at least for the short term.

      While I did strive to be honest with the readers, I think I might have been too…personal at times, when a more generic, anonymous anecdote could have worked just as well. There is truth…and there is being an asshole.

      I figured most people read the blog at work although they could very well be reading on the can, at work. The only downside is that people may come to associate a bad smell and straining, with the Manifesto.

      Cheers Pico, if you ever show up stateside for a convention I’ll do my best to show up with a less cranky attitude.

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  3. Dang it Keith, I come here to make other people depressed and anxious, not eat it myself!

    Mind you, seeing some first shots of the Wedding has a strong countereffect, but I can only absorb so many horrifying accounts of awkward interactions, no matter how subjective or circumstantial they might be. Jeff’s comment definitely suggests to me that there are two sides to this story, but he seems to have ignored the throngs of apathetic attendees. I suppose it hinges on whether you’re the sort of person who’s content with one super lively group, or wants to mingle more and needs that energy throughout the entire con. I’d definitely have some difficulty with the former if it felt like a bunch of sad fish were watching us, but the alternative is what? Being a sad fish? NEVER.

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    1. We’re gonna romp around Bricks Cascade this year, aye mate? It would be interesting to put out feelers and try to assess the emotion of other convention-goers. I’m curious how many other disenchanted cronies there are like Keith.

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    2. Eat it Van Cleave! Eat it!

      I agree that the article was over the top in tone, length and one too many awkward interactions, I can’t really defend the fact that I should have handed it off for somebody to edit before posting (constructive criticism strikes again). There was something going on with this piece though, I had to exorcise the demon even if it meant I would expose myself as a mean-spirited jackass along the way. I’ve been bottling up some of these feeling for a while now, and Bricks LA was like a match to gasoline, and some of it was due to no great offense on their part. I think it got lost in all the burns, but I really do think my issues with the con speak more to my headspace concerning both conventions and real-life interactions with lego nerds, than it does to the event itself.

      I want the best of both worlds, I want the lively core of cronies and I want to engage with my fellow man, although it may be difficult to accomplish that at subsequent gatherings, I mean who would willingly turn their back on me now, knowing I have a sharp knife in my rhetorical pocket and a willingness to use it.

      Never be the sad fish, you got that right brother.

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  4. Compelling read, and some brilliant one-liners in there. I was trying to read this on the down-low while at work and couldn’t help but laugh out loud quite a few times; John Lennon glasses slipping down hawk-like noses, deep crescent-shaped sweat stains beneath tits of easy living, chairs sticking to sweaty backs like turtle shells, bloviating abners, belligerent walruses (who, I will add, have a proclivity to delivering nut-punches to unsuspecting lug-mates – having witnessed it at my locale that weekend), awkwardness of all sorts, the Price is Wrong, etc. – Comedy and Tragedy go hand-in-hand, and this article is just gold Jerry, gold. … and ECG leads? Dang. Hope you’re doing o.k., Z.

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    1. Thanks Ted, my main goal was actually to be entertaining and provide the kind of convention coverage that I would like to read and never see anywhere online. So it’s good to know that some people can look beyond the articles occasionally harsh tone and find something to smile about.

      That nut punch thing with the belligerent walrus sounds hellish, his fist is the size of a canned ham and probably smells like one too.

      I’m happy to report that last time I saw him, Zach was upright and doing just fine.

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  5. Okay back to it!

    History lesson first.

    The last attempt a a SoCal Lego con was around the turn of the millennium and, as I’ve heard it, involved the organizers scampering off with everyone’s registration money and not actually having a con. The bad taste left behind meant no LA Lego cons for more than a decade.

    BricksLA 2015 was held in May so we could scoop Brickfest Live’s traveling Lego truck, which showed up in August of that year. Nobody wanted these outsiders to take First Con After Long Drought credit and everybody in LUGOLA was behind that notion, even the ones who don’t know Carter.

    BricksLA 2016 was the weekend after New Year’s and it had all the attendant difficulties I’ve already bitched about, but I think my local yokes pushed themselves harder that year than they did this year (I sure did), going on the notion that ours is a young con and we’re still working out the deets.

    BricksLA 2017 was the last weekend in January, which was a lot better. I was able to re-display my chunk of Moonrise 1989 from BrickCon and curate a 16-foot, table-spanning Adventure Time display. (I could’ve busted out the AT display this year, as it’s all sitting in my shed, but I didn’t think old stuff was the way to go and I was tired). Notable detractors from the 2017 experience: there was a tattoo convention happening elsewhere in the complex, which sucked up all the parking early, both the bathrooms on the floor where the con is AND the elevators went on the fritz right in the thick of things, and as an experiment the admission to BricksLA was raised from 5 to 10 bucks.

    This year Ayleen reset the admission price to 5 bucks and the public numbers went way up. We had more people Saturday than showed up for the entire weekend in 2017. Also there were more participants — I believe we had a 25% boost in builders. And when discussing the controversial date I heard that some builders actually liked it; I guess tacking it on the end of Xmas break was an advantage. So there are a number of factors pushing against my argument.

    Ayleen’s a friend of mine and I’m glad the Con went well from the person-who-runs-the-con pov. I wish her well, always. Last year during closing ceremonies I commented that late January still felt too early to really rouse oneself for original builds, and I suggested late February as the earliest hypothetical spot (late Feb is too close to BrickCan I suspect.) So yeah I was disappointed when the date was announced. But looking at the larger picture, there’s a possibility that what I want this con to be and a successful con just aren’t the same thing, and I need to get used to it.

    However, I’m not afraid that I’m wrong, I’m afraid that I’m right. I think the main factor in this year’s uptick was the gate price going down; I think the short term good news belies the long term bad news, which is that BricksLA will NEVER grow past a certain point if it remains in that date slot. The burnout is cumulative, and ultimately the advantage of giving parents something to do with their kids during that last weekend of Xmas break won’t be enough to offset the lack of excitement on the tables.

    That’ll have to do for my rant about the con date, which I clearly think is THE influence on a number of things Keith disliked. I will second the fact that Rutherford was indeed on fire, and suggest that, if we ever encounter a time loop and have to live the weekend again, we blow off the mixer Saturday and head to my house.

    Shut up, Rutherford.

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    1. You shut up… octopus… person!

      I really liked this one line of yours:

      “But looking at the larger picture, there’s a possibility that what I want this con to be and a successful con just aren’t the same thing”

      That notion is at the center of my currently bubbling brain. I saw lots of shite that “I” would have done “differently”. But… I’m ignorant of SO MUCH of the data! So many considerations that I am simply in-informed of.

      I’m working on my own AAR, but its hard because I’m trying to stay “big picture” in my thinking, when if fact, all I have is “little picture” data. It’s exciting. The question: How would you have done it better? It really does excite me. It’s a worthy question. Hard. Good place for SPECIFIC answers… but damit! I have blind spots as big as the moon on this topic.

      That notion you invoke: “what I want might not equate to a GOOD convention”… it’s crucial. For example, what specifically were the goals of the lady running the show? What were the goals of LUGOLA?

      The success of any endeavor should be measured in terms of the goals when the endeavor was started.

      Good thoughts on your part man. Thanks for sharing.

      And also, you shut up! Your misshapen and not remotely attractive, and homeless people move to another overpass when you show up!

      Attack!

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    2. The SoCal convention you’re referring to was BricksWest 2, located at Legoland CA and run by a duplicitous cat named Matt Gerber. By all accounts he made off with some phony magazine subscription deposits for a Brickjournal-style publication called “Bricks Magazine”. He also stiffed the hotel and Legoland for services rendered. At least he had the good sense not to try and come back after that, I can’t imagine the relatively small amount of money was worth the hit to his character and public enjoyment of the hobby but he must have been in a desperate frame of mind. I agree completely that it set the scene back a good five years or more, it was a mess.

      I thought I gave Ayleen a lot of credit in the article for the way she ran the con and her personable nature, which is usual for a convention chief, and perhaps I shouldn’t have judged her so harshly about her inability to take feedback. It probably would have worked out better if I’d just sent her an email a few weeks down the line, but in my defense she kept asking for it and dodged the bullet of responsibility. The only thing I regret is calling her disingenuous with a smile, that was too harsh.

      I agree with you that the date is problematic and you should continue to try and persuade Ayleen to push it back, the con will only benefit from it.

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  6. Sorry to hear the convention left a bad taste in your mouth. The only convention I’ve attended, BrickCon 2009, did the same for me.

    The Good:
    – I got to meet dasnewton and talk about his technique for his ships.
    – There was a massive crawler with a town and an airport built on top of it that was badass.

    The Bad:
    -Teenagers with more money than I ever had at their age with beautifully detailed Tiger tanks festooned with Brickarms gushing about the realism of “flesh” heads. I’m a yellow minifig man through and through. Realism =/= white Lego people. Given the poor showing of brown Lego people in general, there may be a case somehow, somewhere that Lego is racist. I salute your attempts to upset the status quo and am disappointed by the reception of the Garvey’s crew. I’m with you. Of course black people get to go to space, ya miserable dingus.
    -Majority of the attendants had some kind of mild autism, making conversations awkward and difficult without normal social cues.
    – I had no Flickr and didn’t bring anything so I couldn’t contribute.
    – Café Corner standard “town” was in full effect

    Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?:
    – I realized my building techniques were hopelessly primitive and that I needed to step up my game. Between the con and a new baby, I ended up going in a mini Dark Age for about two years before I made something I was truly proud of and willing to post on the internet. A military building contest got me out of my shell and that’s kind of been my jam since.

    I appreciate the writeup, Keith. You’ve still got the gift and as long as you build and corroborate with others primarily for your satisfaction, that’s really all that matters.

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    1. That’s an awesome response! My only complaint is that you didn’t flesh it out more and submit it as an article, that was a very entertaining read. I’m jealous you got to meet Dasnewton, that’s one Pokemon I would love to have in the deck, he’s both a genius and seems (online) to be a great guy. Seriously dude, next time take your convention reviews long-form and send it in. Your initial comment also made me consider the fact that over time my opinion of Bricks LA might change. Houston was on the bottom of the list a few years ago but all the weird and unfriendly encounters we had there made for some great stories to tell at subsequent cons. There might be hidden value in all that awkwardness.

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  7. My favorite thing about The Manifesto is that it is always honest, even if the truth might hurt a little. It is definitely refreshing, even if I’m on the wrong end of that truth when I comment or otherwise contribute. It is too bad that the convention wasn’t everything it could have been for you. I have to admit that I’m a fan of Star Wars LEGO. I’ve never actual built something from the movies, but I love the aesthetic of the movies (Thanks Ralph McQuarrie) and trying to build things that would maybe fit into it. But, as well built as certain parts of it are, that Hoth set winning that best in show is kind if depressing. It looks unfinished and lacks anything dynamic. For instance the snowspeeder should be angled and looping around an AT-AT instead being complete horizontal and looking just really flat. There are some things about your final diorama that I’m not the biggest fan of, things that are maybe a bit to cartoon-y, but there is a ton of really fun stuff going on. It is interesting throughout. That VTOL ship affect is brilliant. And the different enviroments (river, cliffs, grass) flow about perfectly. Anyway, I guess the crowd loves them some SW LEGO.

    As far as KOC is concerned, I’m not sure you should stick with that. MOC is pronouced Mach, as in Mach number, right? Do you really want to post pictures of your KOC online? Maybe you do… who am I to judge?

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    1. Thanks Jake, as I’ve said in a couple of my responses, I think I could have exercised a little discretion while still maintaining the candor and smack talk, but it’s far too late for that now, the damage is done and in certain camps I now have a well earned reputation as a dickhead slasher. Honesty and candor are definitely valued here, even if it means a little bloodshed from time to time.

      For the record, I fucking loved Star Wars as a kid, although I was already starting to sour on it when Jedi finally came out. My hatred began with the prequels and has only intensified with the new films. So I’m actually quite down with the battle of Hoth, it just makes for a boring ass diorama if you ask me. For it to really work it has to be vast and even then there just isn’t much to look at. I agree with all of your suggested improvements, Rountree and I shared similar observations.

      As for the KOC, I’ll stick it wherever I please, Of course I want photos of my KOC online, where else would I put them, in a photo album? On the refrigerator? You’re absolutely right, the KOC in question was cartoony, a style that Wacklug prefers and has perfected over the years, but I acknowledge that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The reason I refuse to get too down on it is the time factor. I keep harping on it, but i’ts because I can’t believe we pulled off something that big and bold in a month and change. It doesn’t change the final outcome, the rule of cool applies and for some people it probably wasn’t all that cool visually. The social impact was limited to a very small number of guys who were there while the “unsympathetic audience” online sees it entirely differently.

      Next time I want to win a prize I’m going to combine Star Wars and Marvel into one big fight scene, it will be the best KOC ever!

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  8. Sad to hear that the con was a bust but I must agree with Ted that the write-up was wondrously entertaining. It’s disappointing that your Art School Girlfriend had perhaps an even worse time than you. It does seem like that region could expect to draw more builders but who really knows. Maybe you and Rowntree are best sticking to BrickSlopes. Better get those short-sleeve dress shirts pressed, boys…

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    1. Yeah, me too, contrary to the beliefs of some people who were there I came with the best of intentions with no desire to light people on fire with my review or get my hate on for no reason. I brought something big to contribute to the con and I tried to be a good citizen while I was there. As I said, my bad time had as much to do with me than the event itself.

      As for Utah, as hard as it is for some people to believe, it was a really good time. Strange…but fun. Rountree and I should get a tandem bicycle for the return to glory.

      Thanks for the comment Tyler, it’s always great to here from you and I know you’re busy with grad school.

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  9. Rutherford was on fire in his talks, the poor public who joined violence and aurhority were very confused…. I eagerly await the complete context of #fairylicious which I still know the rough context of but can’t quote in a sentance. Technically I am in Olympia… but I spend time with both Portland and Seattle folks…. and I totally wish I had had something built, that would travel appropriately…. but maybe next year. Brick Day (Disneyland the day after con) was fun, thoygh technically we only hung with the core group when our trio (occasionally foursome) wasn’t trying to cram a pile of rides and a couple shows into a 12 hour day in the park.

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    1. You mean like strapped to a wheelchair, on fire, right? I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed the fleeing public, that was comedy gold. “Let’s get the hell out of here before he calls on us!”. Sorry I misidentified your region of origin, I don’t know why I had Portland on the brain, I remember you telling me in Utah about Bricks Cascade (the last con you’d attended) and I must have made the association.

      I wish you’d built something too, I was kind of hoping for a return of the lime green apartments you had in Utah but lacked an interior. I was a big fan of that model. Bricks LA could definitely have used your models.

      Disney day sounds hellish, I can barely tolerate that place with my kids and I can’t imagine going with Lego nerds. I’m glad you guys had fun, but that damn mouse gets more of my money than it should already. I have family members who worship at it’s vile commercial altar.

      I have to say, I’m glad you commented man, but of all the replies might have expected from you, this was not on the list. Cheers Josh, it was good to see you again, you’re one of the most helpful dudes I’ve met in my convention travels, I hope to see you down the road.

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  10. So much meat and potatoes here, and frighteningly accurate.

    I don’t know if I’d be lying if I said it was a great experience, it certainly had its high points. I try to think of it cumulatively but the real highlight was going over to Jeff’s pad. Seriously people, the cat has a fucking die cast Eagle! I could only dream of getting my grubby little hands on one as a kid and there it is. THERE IT IS!!! Not in a hermetically sealed case, out in the damn open TO PLAY WITH. The word transcendent doesn’t begin to describe how immediately I was taken back to the age of eight. But that aside, in addition to some fantastic chicken curry, hangin’ with the homies was invigorating. And much needed. The Irish goodbye was one of timing and not wanting to pay $10 for a goddamned fucking Coors. That shit is criminal worth punishment well within the realm of EXTREMELY cruel and VERY unusual. Coors?! COORS?!!!! I’d sooner throw down some St. Ides or Steel Reserve before shoving that nuclear piss-water down my gullet. That is bad enough, having it served to you by a surly bartender just makes it perfectly apropos.

    Okay, I’ll try not to add to the fire here even though I normally do take great pleasure when it comes to anointing Icarus with Everclear, but I’ve gotten to this point in my life by walking through the flames with an adult beverage or three in tow. To gauge events on alcohol consumption is not likely considered “good” science; however, I didn’t drink a whole lot (by my standards.) And just for a comparison, Conner Lill and I polished off a fifth of Jameson’s in the span of two hours at BW. And he’s a ginger, so he’s got Satan on his side. XD But on a serious note, I’ve gotten destroyed by a single beer when I’m not in the “right place.” But the more satisfying has been drinking way more than any single liver can handle and not feel a damn thing. Knowing both, very well, I found that I knew the former was inevitable at BricksLA. The only saving grace was WackLUG, but even in Chicago Conner wasn’t the only factor to having an imbibed good time. There are so many factors that can work against you and this con just wasn’t able to fill the gaps. To my fellow alcoholics out there, that moment of clarity wasn’t worth reaching for. And shelling out ten bucks for Coors… I’ll leave that alone, it’s inhuman.

    As for the turnout, I can definitely see how this first weekend after New Year’s was slightly less than unholy. But I did it. I built the shit out of what I displayed hoping to bring it and be schooled. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the trophy and in fact am very proud of my build, but I was expecting a lot more. A LOT more. Perhaps it’s a failing on my part to which I am more than happy to concede; however, I feel that the con is the time to shine. I also acknowledge that BW and BC are two of the biggest, but there’s anomalous Utah. A small regional affair that still managed to bring the goods (I took care of the entire Jameson’s over the two days there.) But there were definitely lower expectations that were wonderfully shattered. LA just made me not only want more but wonder where everything was. Keith brought up Bruce Lowell’s display. I have to admit that the two pieces he brought were well made; however, I would have guessed otherwise if someone said that they were built by a Certified Lego Pro. And two? You have access to every single piece of Lego produced and in whatever quantity and you give us two? Two?! This is your profession, this is a con to promote YOUR profession, this is the time to go mano y mano with your fellow buddies and school us on as to how you earned your place in a position to which we can only dream of. Two? Am I wrong to feel let down? Maybe even insulted as if we weren’t worth your time? Okay, let down for sure, insulted, not so much. But still, dude, if you’re only going to bring two builds, the least you can do is spend more than an hour on each. Better is the goal last time I checked. Speaking of which. Yeah, it’s another fucking Hoth display, but why not make it better? Seriously?! I for one couldn’t even look at it for any length of time, sober or otherwise. It just hurt. Yes, by not pressing down all the tiles it will seem like a natural landscape in theory; however, in practice, IT BURNS MY FUCKING RETINAS, DOUCHEBAG! And there’s no recourse for this, I’m sure he’ll show up next go with a “new” Hoth display with the same OCD-choking technique because it won. Must be the reason, the public should know. That’s the time I don’t ask “What’s next?” because I know what’s coming and I can’t run fast enough nor care any less.

    I think BricksLA can be best summed up with this little analogy. My best friend from college came out to see me at the show, hadn’t seen him in about three or four years. He’s the kind of friend that you can pick up any conversation you left off with no matter how long the separation. Our roots are deep and honest and he probably knows me better than anyone else on the planet.

    I felt bad.

    I felt like I not only let him and his family down for dragging him into this lackluster display, but I also felt bad for the Lego community for what I know they’re more than capable of achieving.

    But…

    I did have a great time. But I felt that the great time was more invoked by the friends and what we all brought that wasn’t ABS. Mike’s talks were indeed stellar. I did meet Adrian Egli, personable and he promised to bring moah bridgey action as he eases back into the hobby. The JPL dude next door was painful to watch yet soberingly entertaining (people are like that in reality, and there’s really no hope for us or them.) Great seeing Josh again. Langrish truly has an infectious smile. Bill Volbrecht brought an awesome parade float that brought back wonderful/painful memories of working on the Rose Parade floats for Cal Poly Pomona and he was a cool cat at that. Building with the Goldmanites was utterly fun and the ride was the shortest six ours ever. And if you rent a U-haul van in Vegas with yellow paint in scraped dents on the roof, I know nothing.

    I think Keith’s observation shows that this community needs to up its game a bit. Not just BricksLA, but every con out there including and especially the bigguns. Attention spans are short, and we are obviously a fickle bunch. Everyone is looking for the greener pasture. Just getting by with a sponsored event to qualify for LUGbulk is not going to cut it in the future. And if this is going to be OUR thing, then we need to make it worthy of being OUR thing regardless. Yes, there will be another Hoth display. gak. But why can’t they be good next time? In scale perhaps? Somewhat realistic to the feel of the movie? Or, here’s an idea, how about something original instead? Maybe even not SW related? And with less ocular damage?!

    I look forward to comparing BricksLA to BW this year. Even the biggest of them could take a lesson from one that in my eyes didn’t live up to expectations. IDK maybe I’m just as, if not more, jaded than Keith. My less-than-a-dollar-from-Costco Corona is helping with that though.

    fucking ten dollars for Coors. Choke on it, Sheraton! CHOKE ON IT!!!

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    1. You may have said “nope” to a formal article, but you wrote one anyway in the comments.

      You betta come through with that BrickWorld report or you may really find yourself knee deep in the hoopla.

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  11. First of all, with or without his permission, please post the Rutherford talks. I’m very interested to hear him speak.

    I gotta say, you gentlemen know how to have a party. And for some reason, a lot of people and AFOLs in this world just don’t. I mean, you all said it yourselves. You enjoyed each other more than any other part of the convention. I pity the rest of the plebs who spent their admission on a weekend full of nothing fun and no one cool! But why are Lego conventions that weak? Why is there such a lackluster environment of “almost good enough” or “I liked it until I started hating it, which corresponds to when I put it on the table for you to look at, so don’t ask me about it”?

    I’m going to Bricks Cascade this year. Only a flash flood, nuclear panic, shitty final schedule, or homeless zombie horde will prevent me from registering and attending the con in my hometown of Portland. And yet, I’m going to approach the con with caution and indeed a good deal of cynicism. Here’s why. The first time I attended the exhibition in 2016 was literally my first time doing anything community-related regarding Lego. I was on fire, everything blew my mind, and I did not bring enough money to spend. The world was big, and I was that kid in a candy shop. Then I went back in 2017, with a model as part of a collab. I got to see my model in person with all the rest. I got to interview on that public day with BTB, together with my buds. But the atmosphere felt different. Sure, I had a new set of motives for being there, but I didn’t expect to feel so unenthusiastic about the models. I think it might have been the large number of repeats from the previous year. But I looked around, had a few good chuckles at the cleverer builds, but mostly just drifted around my internet friends who are now real-life friends. There just wasn’t much to do at the convention, and I even had younger siblings there, to see the party through their eyes.

    So this year, I’m going to the full 4 days. I’m going in curious. What will it be like? Who will I meet? Without the long-standing friendships of an active community member, but with an interest to connect to other builders, but also with the knowledge that “passionate” is not the general degree of interest of hobbyists at such cons, what will I encounter?

    Stay tuned, for Caleb and Aaron’s recap of Bricks Cascade, 2018.

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    1. Rutherord’s take on Bricks LA will be posted later in the weekend, after everyone gets a chance to read and discuss the contest results, I didn’t want his piece to go unread. It’s vastly different from my account, not only because he had a better time, but because he is focused almost exclusively on big picture observations and concrete suggestions to improve and grow the con. It’s like night and day so I encourage you to look for it.

      Yeah, it’s important for me to reiterate what a great time I had with my core group of cronies, I’ll always remember LA in a positive way for that alone, and the tip to Jeff’s time machine. I have learned that you have to bring the party with you if it’s important (and it is) because relying on the con to provide it is a shaky strategy at best. You’re lucky you have BricksCascade in your back yard. I went many years ago when it was still called Brickfest PDX, and it was one of my favorite convention experiences. Have a blast, I can’t wait for your recap! That’s one con I wouldn’t mind getting back to, great city, great builders.

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  12. “Abner’s one of those guys who must have read the 7 Habit’s of Highly Effective People or How to Win Friends and Influence People, because he’s memorized four or five facts about me and uses them in a very scripted fashion.”

    Seriously, fuck these people. They’re like Deep Blue assigning point values to chess pieces, robots taking shortcuts to trick humans. Fake and shallow, it’s why I hate those “networking” parties where everyone wants to sneak an advertisement into the middle of your conversation when all you’re there for is an excuse to drink at work.

    Bummer that the event left you so sour. Looking back on my own experiences, cons are indeed all about the people you’re with and not so much the actual Lego. Too many bad apples in a bucket of otherwise awesome people at BricksLA, I guess. I’m normally indifferent to the admin at cons and ignore most of the schedule, but $10 Coors? That’s a hard, piss-stained pill to swallow that actively interferes with that most important social aspect.

    As Ted put it, at least we got an entertaining read at your expense.

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    1. On the one hand, it’s kind of cool that as a tribe we tend to tolerate and make room for people who are socially awkward, abrasive or “on the spectrum”. But on the other hand, being a grumpy old dude makes me think that we too often make excuses for crappy behavior and sometimes a dick needs to be called out for being a dick. One thing is for sure though, it’s never the right time for a deep-blue type person, they lure you in and then hit you with the sales pitch once you let your guard down.

      The event did leave me sour, but I’ll get over it in time, I’m also guilty of being a bit of a drama queen here with my need to dump all this garbage on the readers. Except for the $10 Coors product, that gripe was totally legit and will live on in the whispered tales of Bricks LA.

      Glad you were entertained dude, thanks for the comment!

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  13. Gawddamn. I don’t really have a lot to say but I feel the need to leave a response.

    This is the realest lego blog post I’ve ever read. It has the brutal honesty of a twee affect post, but without the self-indulgent irony. It feels like an acerbic text thread, mostly due to the blunt use of real names.

    There’s a very real undercurrent of social awkwardness throughout the lego scene, and it’s much more apparent in real life than it is online.

    I’m bummed that our vague plans for some sort of collab didn’t materialize, but I’m glad to not have blown a kickass diorama on a weak convention. I think the future of microlug gatherings is in pop-up cons at someone’s house for a weekend, putting together a collab for an audience of in-person cronies, tolerant spouses and internet fanboys. Swing through philly sometime.

    Con fatigue is real. I think a big problem is that having reached dizzying heights, (omicron, cyberpocalypse, etc) it becomes harder to catch that dragon again. You can get that magic formula right once, but you find out next year that the formula’s changed. I don’t know what the solution is yet, but I suspect that chasing the dragon and repeating the formula only ensures burnout. You have to change the formula to find the next thing. Maybe that means doing lego stuff outside the con structure, but the advantage of conventions is that they’re a good, structured way to get all your lego friends in one place without the burden of hosting.

    As much as I loved the social experiment factor, I’m underwhelmed by the photos of your KOC. Good spaceships but pretty boring terrain, and no central focal point.

    But then, this comment of mine doesn’t really have a central thesis either.

    Great post, but bummed I won’t run into you at any conventions for a couple years – and that I won’t get to read more incisive post-con commentary again anytime soon.

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    1. Not to sound cryptic, but the solution is in the process. Repeating the formula is only practicing, capturing that dragon again is for posterity to decide. Changing the formula is a good start, but the more effective decision is to accept that there is no formula. And therefore no actual solution. There is only what’s next.

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      1. Not cryptic at all, I think you’re 100% correct. Learn from the experience but don’t try to repeat it; stagnation is death.

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    2. Thanks Carter, I really appreciate the feedback. Between your experience and knowledge of the author I think you’re more qualified than most to chime in both positive and negative.

      You’re the second person to observe that I seem to be chasing the dragon where conventions are concerned, trying to recapture that elusive initial high that hooked me on the gatherings. While I’m sure there is an element of truth there, it’s not the only major contributing factor to my dissatisfaction and disillusionment. Con Fatigue is indeed real. Part of my wanderlust where conventions are concerned is simply the fun of seeking out new people, new venues and new encounters, it isn’t just because I’m hoping to recapture an old victory, in fact that rarely comes into it anymore and Rutheford can vouch for that. Weird shit happens at regional cons, it’s a grab-bag but it can be super memorable. I do agree that I need to redefine the formula of what a successful convention is, and modify my expectations as well to avoid another reaction like the one I had in LA.

      I totally agree with you about the KOC, I can only offer the tired explanation that I only had about 6 weeks to fill the table and as I said in the WIP articles, there simply wasn’t enough time to rebuild and experiment with different ideas. It certainly isn’t the greatest thing I’ve ever brought to a con, it doesn’t match Omicron or Bucharest, but it isn’t the worst thing either, Hub14. The landscaping was indeed boring and that’s all on me. But I’m not sure I agree about the focal point, it was there, but Zach’s ship kind of stole the thunder and shifted it away. The wedding was the center of the action and at least in person, the audience seemed to understand that.

      I feel like I let you down, I totally forgot that we’d discussed the possibility of showing a collab at LA, I didn’t bring you into this one because I didn’t see your name on the list of attendees and the thing I would like to create with you would take me way longer than 6 weeks to realize. If you’re still down for the collabo action, I am brother. After I’m done sorting my building docket is free for the rest of the year. I’m going to take off SHIPtember this next time around so let me know!

      I think you’re onto something with the low-key, invitational, pop-up convention idea, Derek Schin is experimenting with that model later this year and even though it could never replace a con, I’d sure like to see somebody take a shot at one.

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  14. There’s a detail in the article here that I can’t seem to get out of my mind. It’s like someone saying “Knee deep in the hoopla.” and then you can’t get We Built this City out of your ears. You’re welcome. XD

    Anyways, that detail is the price. Now, I’m not rich nor stingy with what little money I make or have, but I am frugal. I have been conditioned to get the best value for my hard earned dollar. That being said and not to single out BricksLA, but does paying a con to show our wares so that they can attract business seem a bit one sided to any of you? I know and acknowledge that there are costs incurred for renting out the meeting space and negotiating (possibly) a special rate for local accommodations, and I see that there is usually a bit of swag and prizes involved, raffle items and gift bags, badges and whatnot, but I’m looking at that $65 registration fee (not the $10 Coors) and thinking that this business model, standard for every con, is backwards.

    Not to go unrealistically idealized, but if the Field of Dreams-ian notion of “If you build it, they will come.” were applied to the con mentality and my own frugality, that $65 wouldn’t exist and the feeling of getting the best value would be impossible to miss. Carter’s con outside the con. The anti-con. As it is, we are paying someone to host an event so that we have an excuse to hang with friends. Are we being pimped out to each other? Are we really that lazy?

    I’m not calling for boycotts nor am I crying about the fee, for what I get it seems acceptable. But what if the fee to show didn’t include all the booty? Do we really need more Lego sets that just get assimilated into the collective? Do we need any more pint glasses? Actually, those were pretty awesome, but do we need them? Raffle prizes? Sets with an award? Awards? Actually, those are great but do we need EVERY category? Why not just best in show as determined by those in the show? What if the costs involved were essentially eliminated and only a minor fee for floor space were the only thing? What if it were a con without any LUG requirements, that seems to be the deal with the devil in which many cons must take into account? No LUG, no ulterior motive. Just a gathering. BYOBooze and have a bare minimum accommodations, is a Sheraton that charges $10 for Coors our doom? Just get together, set up the models, and invite the public to offset the costs. The entry fee was $5, our fee was $65. This is not just BricksLA but all the cons. Am I wrong in the assessment that I paid 13x what the public did in order to get the public in?

    I’m also not saying that this would eliminate any feelings of being jaded, I’m just offering an optional possibility on a specific point. I don’t have cost info on the cons out there nor am I privy to all the workings therein. I’m just more curious as to what those of you think in consideration of this feeling of lost value for what I expect in a con. If this were a possibility, would you make it a point to commit to something like that more than a con?

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    1. I’ve got a detailed companion article on BrickUniverse-Louisville in the pipe (I’ll probably submit it next week once these comments and the contest dust settles)… but I will quickly state that it is not all “cons”. Granted, BU-Lou is more of a traveling LEGO Fan Expo, but it was $0.00 for us to display… and they gave us all parking passes, brick badges, and a LEGO themed book for our troubles…

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      1. Bring it on Ted, I can’t wait for your take on Kentucky-Con! I bet they didn’t have $10 Coors beer at the mixer. Was there local bourbon available?

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    2. Super Early Bird Registration was $40…. included the T-Shirt, Badge Bricks, and the surprise pint glass…. based on the average price of the con shirt as an add-on elsewhere, the value wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Now I need to clean the table off and build.

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    3. Oh just go ahead and post it, you screwed me again with your shitty earworm! This might be worse than the Irish Goodbye because you did it TWICE! This is the anthem of the damned, the one true anthem of Bricks LA. Knee deep in the hooplah, indeed.

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      1. Although you can improve that song by replacing the chorus with “we built this city on a volcano”, you must admit that the unholy concentration of teased hair and power mullets is pretty epic. And who knew Abe was totally bitchin’? I guess Huey Lewis was right when he said it’s hip to be square. It’s hip to be square. It’s hip to be square. Dun, dundun, dundadundun. It’s hip to BE square. You’re welcome. 😀

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  15. So…what I’m basically seeing here is that when I make my trip overseas to actually partake in a LEGO-con, BricksLA might not be the one to go to then…

    Welp, there goes the flight plans already :/

    But seriously, a great article! Loved the collab, especially the preferences of Ghanan minifigs and the coolness that seems to ooze out of that many spaceships at the same time. Shame about Demeter though. Perhaps the universe simply couldn’t handle all the great SHIP’s in the same room at the same time…

    Still, glad to hear you guys had fun at least!

    P.S. Which conventions would you recommend as a good alternative to BricksLA? This coming from someone who has never been to a LEGO Con ever…

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    1. “Which conventions would you recommend?” – That’s a really loaded question. If you take Keith’s lesson to heart, that “the people are just about the only thing that matters”, then the best convention would be the one where a lot of your on-line building pals are going that year (or the one where the people who build the things that you like to build are going). A rare few are able to hit all of the cons. The point of going to different cons really is all about the people you get to hang with. If you are going to travel across the vast expanse of the Pacific, a good rule of thumb would be to consider cons that extend 4-5 days (2-3 days of set-up and seminars, followed by 2 public days). They would be the best bang for the buck.

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    2. Ted stole my thunder on this one but he’s absolutely right, if everything else is even for you in terms of cost and time of year, then go where your people are. Out of the conventions I’ve personally attended I would put Seattle at the top because you get the trifecta: a ton of recognizable builders, the best city for the setting for off site shenanigans, and the friendliest vibe. No other con really comes close, although I should throw BrickWorld Chicago in there as a close second, just for the pure spectacle of the State’s largest event.

      Don’t let my experience in any way deter you from trying an American con, even the one in LA has the potential to be fun and impressive for a first go-round. If you’re serious about coming state-side for con, make sure and let me know. Depending on the situation and the number of cronies we could get going, a Manifesto sub-con might be a blast.

      Thanks for the comment Wolff.

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  16. I wasn’t planning on reading War and Peace, but I did anyway. Insightful as always, and although you are jaded you still harbor a deep affection for (most) us not named Rutherford. I’d add some pithy comment or pointed commentary, but it would probably just echo what someone else has already said; however, I can totally see Matt ducking out on $10 Coors. Even he has standards.

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    1. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition Mr. Price, not even a worthy pedagog such as yourself. I know he’s got standards, but my larger point about the cruelty of his Irish goodbye still stands. Never leave a buddy behind at a shitty mixer. He left me with the bros’ Rutherford….in KeithLUG we subscribe to the whole “no mankinder left behind” philosophy. Even if there is a slight echo, I still welcome your pithy comments should you change your mind. Cheers Dennis, it’s always a pleasure when I can smoke you out of your rabbit hole, even if it’s only for a peak.

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      1. rowntRee and those goddam Irish goodbyes… you just made me flash back to BW16 when I got stuck in a 2 hour conversation with “the first female freelance LEGO Artist and LEGO instruction author in…the…world” with no one to throw me a life line… granted it was 3AM and I was three-sheets-to-the-wind with my bourbon bottle in hand, but that’s how I remember it….

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      2. I don’t remember you getting separated from the herd, I think we were all still down there roaming the veld. You need to learn how not to make eye contact with dangerous beasts. You also need to learn that you don’t have to outrun the lion, only the meat next to you. Sometimes you’re just another wildebeest, and sometimes you’re the refrigerator of the Serengeti. XD

        Wait, you still had some bourbon?

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      3. Think this all occurred after I had sauntered over to pour Sava a congratulatory glass of bourbon, when I saw the trophy brick being placed for his “Best Train” victory around 2am. When I was trying to make it back to the herd is when I got ensnared. You all were either too busy building a giant dong out of red Duplo playbrick, or just decided to take enjoyment in my misery from across the all (admittedly, those were better options for you all than mounting a rescue mission – but I did still have some top-shelf bourbon left)

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