After Action Review: Bricks LA 2018

Mike Rutherford  returns to blogging, with his unique observations concerning the recent Bricks LA convention. Without further ado, take it away, Rutherford!

I love After Action Reviews.  They are one of the first things any U.S. soldier experience.  You practice some task over and over.  Then you execute that task under stressful conditions, usually involving a lack of sleep, a lack of information, and a lack of time.  You execute this task while another group of people pretend to be your mortal enemy (an opposing force, or OPFOR), harassing you, disrupting your efforts, and exploiting your laziness or your lack of attention to detail… steeling unguarded equipment… kidnapping hapless team members who wander off to pee behind a tree… engaging in all manner of mischievous behavior (oh, and also “killing you” in accordance with the rules of the training event).  All this goes on while dispassionate “Observer Controllers” (evaluators) watch, check the time, and scribble in their notebooks.  By the end of the event, your entire team is ragged, sleepy, cranky, and often smelly.

With the exception of that dam OPFOR, the whole deal resembles what a Lego Convention staff goes through.   At least at the several conventions I have attended…

Well, in a training event, the end of the event is the precise moment when a well-run After Action Review is crucial.     An AAR is a semiformal discussion here all the participants discuss the event.  The guys who executed the task, the pretend bad guys (OPFOR), and of course the Observer Controllers.  And in a good AAR, it really is EVERYBODY who participates.  From the lowest ranking soldiers to the commanders.   If you were there… and you did a thing, or saw a thing, or are responsible for a thing… you better be ready to discuss the event.   Because the harsh crucible of experience has taught us all that “even the little guy” might be the one to see that one crucial detail that resulted in success of failure.

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It also has to happen quickly.  Right after the training event.  Before you change into dry cloths, or pack up your gear, or get back to the unit headquarters.  Before you get a good night’s sleep.  Before your memory fades, and before your mind replaces uncomfortable knowledge with more pleasing versions of what went down.  With a good AAR, you need to strike while the iron is hot.  While people are still stinging from the errors that were made, or still glowing from the satisfaction of getting it right.  Quick, clear, concise.   Because in a week… most of these lessons will be forgotten.  The important lessons must be captured in writing quickly, and organized for detailed review in the weeks and months before the NEXT training event.  THAT is how improvement occurs.  Shit.  Guess I should have written faster…

So they all gather and talk.  The training unit, the OPFOR, and the Observer, Controllers.  It can be an emotionally taxing event.  But emotions, especially pride, and resentment… afford us little utility.  Amusement?  Sure.  Distraction?  You betcha!  Motivation?  At times, yes.  But utility?  Not so much.

This is important because the AAR is NOT a witch hunt.  It’s more than a cataloguing errors.   That is only HALF of the equation.  It is equally important to recognize and record the good shite!  Not to make people feel good!  To hell with that!  You want to feel good?  Go shower, eat, and fall asleep watching TV!  No!  The importance of recording the good decisions and techniques is so that we can be sure to do them again… NEXT TIME!  That is as much a part of improvement as is identification of errors.  What went wrong…and what went right.

It is hard (read DAM HARD) to keep the focus of an AAR on “FIX” and not on “FAULT”… Again, in the same way we shouldn’t focus on feeling good… FUCK the FAULT.  Fault here is meant, as in “who’s fault” The “blame name” is only an administrative detail that is part of a larger and more important fact: A FLAW, ERROR, FAILURE, or MISTAKE was made.  Yea, you can say “Rutherford was on fuel, and he forgot the pick up.  But that’s just the blame name.  Rutherfords a jackass.  Got it.  But that observation fixes nothing… cause A: Rutherford will still be a jackass when we do the next exercise… and B: Rutherford is not the ONLY jackass in the unit!  So what about the FIX?  That’s the money!  So, observe that Rutherford forgot to execute the re-fuel… and THEN write down that Fuel runs need to be tracked and logged (probably by Goldman) and people need to REPORT when fuel gets low (fucking Ted, Vackron, and Wherewolf… playing Cards Against Humanity all night right next to the generator after it ran out of gas… without telling anybody!  Come on guys!)  Say it, discuss it, and write it down!  The whole REASON for the AAR is improvement.  (Really… this whole AAR thing begins to look like a form of critique… does it not?).

Because its hard to keep the focus on FIX and not FAULT… the Army has… wait for it… Yes!  A format!  Shocking I know!  And know what else?  I like the format!  Again… who saw that coming!   Keith accused me of always prefacing the meat of my articles with laborious definitions… total bull shit!  Where the hell does he get off throwing around that kind of accusation?

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So in an AAR, you want to focus on four simple parts… in a certain order.

  1. What was the plan?
  2. What actually happened?
  3. Why?
  4. What do we change?/What do we keep the same?

Spoiler Alert: This critique of the Bricks LA 2018 isn’t really an ideal AAR.  I’m ONE participant reporting his observations in a vacuum.  Unlike an observer controller, I am not aware (or remotely concerned with) the constraints faced by the event organizers.  So… while I can focus on FIX and not FAULT (and while that’s a good thing) I can’t attack the challenges holistically… involving all involved parites… like the Army does in a true AAR.  But… I’m totally keeping the AAR in the title cause I’m like… an Army guy.  And while a foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of a little minds… Emerson, you cranky dick!  And while consistency may be the last refuge of the unimaginative… Oscar Wild… Obviously a Bionical fan…  I still think that format and consistency (in the selection and application of standards) pre-empts a lot of rebuttals, and helps us to subdue the distracting demon of emotion.

But like I said… I can’t do a real AAR… and many of you are alrady thinking: “Christ!  This is like that Mission Statement crap he’s always on about!”  Well… yes, I suppose that’s true… and after giving it some thought… piss off already!

Maybe you think the AAR or critical review philosophy is some absurd cultural artifact, peculiar to the military mind.  As the Grinch tells us… WRONGO!

I am told by my son (who I consider fairly reliable for reports of this particular nature), that Prince (the artist formerly known as… the artist formerly known as Prince…) was well known for watching video of every concert he and “The Revolution” preformed, usually right after the performance.  I am told, that he was quite insistent about all the band members watching these videos together.  They would all discuss the bands performance in detail, and offer one another recommendations on how to improve.  Im down Prince!  Im down!  (Seriously… how cool would it have been to hang out with Prince and the Revolution after one of there concerts?  If you don’t think that would have been cool… move to the back of the vehicle!).

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Jesus!  Still not convinced that a critical review is crucial to improvement?  Still think it’s some kind of odd ball army thing?  You don’t even care what color beret she wore?  What about that classic trope where the football coach makes the team watch film of “Friday’s game” pointing out errors and good decisions while his team sits silently staring at the screen.

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Damnit!  Still not yelling “I get it!” at your computer?  OKThen recall the scene in Top Gun, where Jester explains why Maverick and Goose won the engagement but only by acting recklessly (violating the parameters of the exercise if I recall )  All while that odd POV Ray looking digital rendition of the engagement plays out on the screen next to him.

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And?  What happens at the end of that narrative?  Mav saves the day and gets to make out with Val Kilmer!  Scienterrific proof that AARs are the straight and narrow path to improvement.  That guy who sends Mav to Top Gun?  He’s also the principal from Back to the Future… how awesome would it be to hang out with that guy and Prince after a concert?  Know what your problem is Prince?  You’re a slacker!  Your father was a slacker… and you’re a slacker!  Now I have to send you and the revolution to Top Gun!

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So… I want to give an AAR but I can’t.  Well, what the hell?  Where does that leave us?  (Three pages of drivel with jack shit to show for it… Suckas!).  Well, this is what I can do:

Cut to the action!

What was supposed to happen?

Grrrr… it’s frustrating not being able to do this right!  We would look at the mission statement at this point…  recall all that crap… from my article about starting and running a LUG?  Well,  I don’t have the mission statement for Bricks LA 2018 (Oh come on!  I know they never wrote one!  I’m just trying to give the benefit of the doubt here!).  So… Ill synthesis one (at great risk to the accuracy of this process I might add!).

Who: The CON Organizer

What: Attracts as many members of the public as possible

When:  JAN 6-7 2018

Where: At the Pasadena Convention Center

Why: To garner enough cash to cover the expenses of the event, and maybe even make some profit.

I know… this is not OUR mission statement.  It’s got nothing to do with why WE go to cons… but two things to consider:

  1. There are as many personal mission statements are there are persons. No mission statement is universal!  Come on man!
  2. While not OUR mission statement… it is the mission that probably applies to the CON organizers, and explains their decisions.  Or, more accurately, the mission statement against which we can scrub our assessments of their success of failure.

Some of you may be looking at the Armys 5W format and thinking: Yeah… but where is the “HOW” part of it?  The HOW is the rest of the plan.  All the stuff on the next 10 pages of an operations order.  That’s why a mission statement is important but different from the actual plan.  But here, looking at the overarching considerations, Im hard pressed to say that Bricks LA 2018 was anything less than a success.  They did all that stuff in the mission statement… and while I don’t know it for a fact, I think they covered their expenses (with my bar tab alone… at 10 bucks for a beer… and my brother and I drinking like dam fish!).

So… were done?  That’s it?  Mission Accomplished (George standing in front of that stupid banner?).  Nope.  Let’s talk about the HOW… and see both opportunities for the “MO-BETTAH”… as well as opportunities to “Keep doing the good stuff”  Maybe I can salvage part of the AAR format on an issue by issue basis here…

This con is in one of the largest cities in the nation.  Further, its in one of the wealthiest states in the country.  That’s already a double barreled blast of super-funded potential.  What’s more, it’s So-Cal.  A global center for tec industries, computer programmers, and IT types… Yes, thank you Seattle, I’m aware that you are also a tech center… but when combined with the massive population of LA and greater So-Cal… Bricks LA SHOULD BE… the largest fest in the country.  Point blank.  There it is.

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Bricks LA should not only be larger than it is… but by a massive margin.  It should in fact be the largest CON in the country.    But… it’s not.  Lets trot out the format:

  1. What was the plan?

To attract as many members of the public as possible.

  1. What actually happened?

Many members of the public attended, but only a tiny fraction of what is easily possible.

  1. Why?

Lack of targeted advertising.

  1. What do we change?/What do we keep the same?

Read below…

Bricks LA does NOT attract enough members of the public… and this is the crucial point of failure from which most of the other Bricks LA short comings stem.  Why? Because more public would provide more revenue.  More revenue would help secure a better venue, cheaper drinks at the mixer, and in turn more AFOLs and more exceptional MOCs… and like a fly wheel… it would get mo and mo and mo bettah… if only they had more time.  Oh wait, that is another sobering fact: This is the fourth year for this CON.

OK… if your reading this and thinking: Aw… Rutherford is just a malcontent.  He’s not invested!  Easy for him to come and take pot shots at our effort!   Remember what I said about FIX not FAULT.  And remember to ditch the emotion right now (I mean… keep hating me… sure… but don’t let that hate be an excuse to dismiss my observations!).

To be fair… they had better numbers this year than ever before.  This is a meaningful improvement.  My gripe is that they should be doing SO MUCH better… that they can do better… that they should do better!  By all rights… the LA CON should be the envy of the CON world and it aint.  WHY?

Lets go back to that door on public day.  Lots of people.  5 bucks a head I think?  Somebody correct me if Im wrong… 5 bucks.  Less than many CONs.  And the lower prices seem to have increased numbers over last year… so what’s my grief?

Not enough Latinos.

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Wait.  What?  Did he just say…  Yeah.  I just said.  NOT ENOUGH LATINOS on public day.  The host city… Los Angeles… named by Spaniards before Jack Webb’s great granddaddy could even see Ellis Island.  The city of angles has always been a hub of Hispanic culture in the US.  Also, just to be sure, I looked it up… And it’s a fact: Latinos reproduce sexually!  Just like the vast majority of AFOLs… relevance?  Sexual reproduction means that Latinos have a “young” phase in their life cycle… We call them kids or children.  LA is full of Latino children.  No… I don’t have any research for you here.  I’m asking you to take a leap of faith with me on this one.  Lots and lots of Latino kids in LA.

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AND?  Rutherford?  Latino kids in LA… Point?  My point is that while there were many Latino kids in the crowd on public day… there were NOT ENOUGH!  They should have dominated the public day gene pool!  Why didn’t they?  I can’t comment from a perspective of absolute knowledge (I’ll ask Prince later)… but having spoken to the fest organizer about the issue… I am left believing that there was no specific outreach to that population.  No recruiting… no results.

Azmeth check: This is NOT about equal opportunity… social justice… cultural imperialism… or La Raza… fine topics though they may be!  It’s not about this party, or that party, or any other social agenda!  This is about getting a massive and untapped segment of the LOCAL POPULATIOIN to come to your CON… because they pay 5 bucks a head at the door!  It’s about getting Bricks LA public attendance numbers up.  And when I say up I mean WAYYY the hell up!  See the thing is… LA is a metropolis!  It’s gigantic!  It’s a huge geographical basin filled with smog, concreate, and humans!  And the humans?  Many of them are Latino!

So really, what I am griping about is the low public numbers… which translate into low cash on hand for the CON organizers… and the ease with which those numbers could be quickly increased.  A systematic analysis (or even a serious but non-systematic analysis!) of the Latino population will quickly reveal that print and radio advertising are much more effective in reaching that market than our normal (read lazy) digital three part harmony of  Twitter, Facebook, and a homepage.  Normally… I wouldn’t zero in on the significance of race… but IT’S LA!  ¿Dónde están los indegenes?

Again… ditch the politically correct labels… the mantra of inclusion… and ANY implication of racism!  None of that stuff is germane to my point.   I just want to get MORE LOCALS to ATTEND.  Pay at the door and increase the events financial margins!

As an AFOL attendee, FIXING problems is out of my lane… but I’m trying to be all AAR about this, so here are some concreate recommendations:

Get print adds in Spanish Language papers.  Print is still big in Latino communities.

Do a radio spot in Spanish.  Radio is still a big deal in Latino communities… especially LA.

Get Spanish speaking builders to go to your fest.

I thought that would get your attention.  Do what now?  Get “Spanish speaking builders”  What the hell does that even mean?  How many can you name?  Spanish speaking builders… is that even a thing?  Is Bionical even Lego?   I just took 4 minutes to start your search for you (no really…. It was four actual minutes!)

Go here and locate Lego Ambassadors all over the world.  Think one might speak Spanish?  No se, perro… es possible amigo!

Maps are to analog for you?  Here, stay all digital and generic… and you don’t even have to leave Flickr for this one!  Drop them a line!  Tell them exactly your problem and INCORPORATE them!  They are the answer… most likely… or they can help you find the answer… PLUS… WHY NOT JUST CALL THEM?

Neither of these are positive scores… not a sure fire solution (to a problem I bet a few of you don’t even perceive as relevant).  But I bet no effort was made to recruit from this population.  No population will just show up.  They have to be deliberately signaled and welcomed.  Invited.  Ask them to come.  That’s a thing in many other fields of endeavor.  Asking for what you want.  And again… I remind you that Bricks LA should be a huge endeavor by now.  You can afford to do this, and you should do this because… MORE people on public day fuels the rest of the endeavor!

Oh, it occurs to me that there is an assumption here that I left unstated.  Latino kids like Lego.  Yeah… they do.  Just go with me on that one.  They really really do.  Just like every other kid on the planet.  (Know what kills me right now?  I have a picture of a bunch of Honduran orphans playing with some original Agent themed Lego.  I took it while I was working there… and it’s such a perfect picture for this exact part of this exact article that it’s killing me!  And my dumb ass can’t find it!  No doubt I’ll find it in about a year, and think: Oh yeah… that picture would have been perfect… Damit!)

OK, what ever Rutherford… You got anything else?

Yeah.  AFOL attendance:

  1. What was the plan?

AFOLs attend, and bring large numbers of excellent MOCs, which in turn draw huge numbers of public spectators… who pay… at the door…

  1. What actually happened?

Some MOCs drew some public spectators.

  1. Why?

Public attendance is proportional to MOCs on display, and there were not many MOCs on display.

  1. What do we change?/What do we keep the same?

Read below…

Lets talk about other reasons the public comes.  Again, the public matters because they pay the bills.  They may not matter to you and I… but to the people who front that fat cash for the CON… yeah… the public matters.  They come… why?  To see our bitchen models right?  Yeah… that and to buy from the vendors… pass time… and maybe in a certain kind of CON to play a bit with Legos.  But the heart of it is our models.  No MOCs… no draw for the public… and a sucky fest.

So… the AFOLs enjoyment of the event does matter (just not as much as that dam public!)

Why does the AFOL enjoyment matter?  Well, why do many AFOLs go to CONs?  Because other AFOLs tell them that the last one was good!  Word of mouth.  Informal endorsement.  That’s a hard truth… but it’s the way of it.

There were not many AFOLs… ergo… not many MOCs.  I can comment on why ONE and exactly ONE MOC was not there.  The one I built.  My big spaceship collapsed on the table… and I lacked the emotional courage and the commitment to mission success to reassemble it.  I suck.  But I’m not taking the fall for the low MOC numbers man!  No alone I’m not!  That was like… 24 stinking inches of table space man!  Fuck off Keith!  I hate you!  Where was the combined potential of LUGOLA?

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But what else?

Well, LUG support for the CON.   And cue the format!

  1. What was the plan?

The local LUG provides support (maybe brick, maybe attendees, maybe labor, maybe other stuff)

  1. What actually happened?

LUGOLA was there, and helping… but not in any capacity that is even close to the LUGs size!

  1. Why?

That one… is totally beyond my knowlage.  It’s a social, political, and leadership question… and it is TOTALLY internal (between CON Organizers and LUG leadership).

  1. What do we change?/What do we keep the same?

Read below…

LUGOLA is a massive Lug.  But I don’t think there participation on the table level reflected their size as a LUG.  Why not?  Don’t know.  Again… check the anger and stay with me for a sec.  I don’t know… and don’t even care.  Not because I’m callus!  I mean, I am callus… but that’s not why I don’t care!  I don’t care because it’s not my job as a MOC displaying attendee to care.  It’s the fest boss and LUGOLAS job to care.  Really… it might not even be LUGOLAs job… but somebody needs to get the largest local lug to increase their investment in the local CON.  Many LUG members are not in the LUG so they can do public service style stuff.  It’s not there bag.  Got it.  But… LUGOLA is pretty big… gots lots of great builders (except for Lee, Zack, and Jeff I mean).  Lots of brick, lots of talent… and very important to CONs… lots of potential CON workers.  How?  Who?  Why?  Get off my back man… You guys figure it out!  Remember… I just suffer the results of the deficiency and report it.

One way or another though… that local LUG needs to get on board with the local CON.

Because… there were a total of 5 people running the CON.  Five.  No Bueno!  You need runners, security, receptionists, bean counters, all kinds of people on a team to manage a crowd that big.  And Bricks LA had five brave souls against the mob.  And they were just that.  Brave.  The CON needed more staff, period.  Because that affected the quality of reception, goodie bag distribution, event schedule updates, internal communications… everything.  As it was… having the primary boss lady literally walking around in the crowd, passing messages to the entire room by simply talking to various individuals?  No system, no PA, no main message board, or consistently staffed info desk?  Not an effective way to communicate with your mob, or to run a complicated event.  No suh!  Noooo suh!

Lets review: Increase local public numbers by targeting specific population.  Increase level of LUGOLA involvement in order to improve administration and control of event… which in turn might improve AFOL experience… and result in a more attractive reputation… and attract more AFOLs next year…

But what else?  Ah yes… deep breath… the previously mentioned 10 dollar beers.

Somebody disconnect the politically correct field generator, and engage the safety circuit.  Got it?  Got the safety circuit plugged into the little… thing there?  Sure?  Great, thanks.

  1. What was the plan?

AFOLs meet, drink, lower inhibitions, compromise judgement, get crazy, and make memories together.

  1. What actually happened?

AFOLs met, drank a beer, eyeballed one another, and left, save those engaged directly in competitive activities (a short list indeed).

  1. Why?

Not enough alcohol consumed to lower inhibitions and compromise judgement.

  1. What do we change?/What do we keep the same?

And keep reading…

Ever been to a mixer?  Ever been to a mixer with lots of alcohol?  Ever been to a mixer with no alcohol?   Note any differences?   Yeah exactly.  Alcohol… mixes well.  Dry goods don’t.

Look man… bottom line.  The Mixer is the start point for several of my most cherished CON memories.  Strangers meet for the first time, old friends get re-acquainted… shy aspy AFOLs get over their inhibitions with the aid of our favorite complex sugar… or they don’t drink… and none of that stuff happens.  The mixer is this thing everybody loves to poo poo… but really… we all dig it.  Give me a little drunken revelry, a little carousing, and I will give you some good war stories for the next few years!  Not to dismiss the utility of frequent “safety meetings”… but the fact is I never attend those.  Cant.  Neither can a lot of folks.  But alcohol?  Yes!  At ten dollars for a can of Coors?  NO!

Wait, it’s just the price of a beer.  How big a deal can that be?  Two things.  1. TEN DOLLARS.  2. COORS.  Your hosting a social event in the heart of one of the largest cities in the world… in one of the most populous states in the wealthiest country in the world… and you can’t architect a plan that puts a cold beer in my hand for less than ten dollars?  I chastise you!  Yes… Im from San Diego.  I know Cali is expensive.  I got that.  I also get that the convention center is gouging you for the beer.  But I have every faith in the intellect of the event host… her advisors… the great city of Los Angeles… and this great nation… to come together and put a beer called “Not Coors” in my fat sweaty plam for less than ten dollars American.  Move the mixer to the hotel?  Move it to another venue?  Cut a better deal with the CON Center?  I don’t know… but the answer is out there.  Ten is a high high number.  And Coors is a bad bad word!

And this is important!  No!  Not because I SAY SO… it’s important because ten dollars per beer turns into a financial barrier to drinking.  And drinking is KEY at the MIXER.  It’s not about my personal sensibilities.  It’s about the function of the MIXER.  To make good times and generate the stuff of legend!  Also… Coors tastes like piss drained out of a dead man who was found after floating face down in a nuclear cooling pond after 4 days!  Coors?  Ten?  Find a bar or a restaurant across the street in that gigantic shopping complex!  Stock pile beer on the cheap and drink it in the back of Keiths van!  Something!  Also, Carona!  Also XX!  Also Modelo!  Also… dare I say it?  Bud!

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  1. Target local public, and up the numbers. Get LUGOLA to soldier up and support with labor and MOCs.  Get your attendees liquored up better.

Oh… last thing.  Bricks LA 2018 was an old CON.  Old.  It’s a total Scientific Wild Ass Guess (SWAG), but I’m guessing the aggregate age of the AFOL attendees was like… 28 or 30.  That’s old!  Get up out of your walker and role the dam format already!

  1. What was the plan?

Builders between the ages of… 20? And 100 years old meet, share notes, compare MOCs, and establish cultural continuity… ensuring survival of the AFOL as a culture, and as a species…

  1. What actually happened?

Old AFOLs met, hung out, and cultural norms were re-enforced.  A local DJ erected an cultural echo chamber on site…

  1. Why?

And that questions… is an alarming mystery indeed.

  1. What do we change?/What do we keep the same?

Well for starters… we read on!

Where were the young turks?  The 22 and 24 year old builders?  Again… it’s LA man!  LUGOLA… you are the force on the street.  The men and women in the field at this particular hot spot.  Report!  Where were all those young builders who are going to be filling our ranks in about two or three years?

The LA AFOL scene seems to be lacking in continuity.  Lots of older guys… Like Keith and I… Jeff… just…old.  So old.  Wrinkly, angry, self-righteous… stay off of my lawn… don’t bump the table you dam no latino kids!  But when I go to the CON in Chi town or Seattle… there are the young turks.  Brimming with skill and energy.  The next gen.  Next wave.  Nipping at our heels like rabid (and young) wolfs!  Keeping the older guys from rest.  Keeping us on our toes… eventually we all fall… and they pass us by like the better builders they are… followed by those only slightly younger than they… and the sacred hoop of AFOL cultural continuity is continued…

But in LA?  Not so much.  Older guys and gals.  A different vibe.  Skill heavy, funded, and all to ready to tell one another how excellent we are… but what the hell LA?  Is the LA AFOL going to go the way of the Shakers?  (Oh, look it up already!).  Are you the last gen?  Where is that group of rambunctious younger builders?  The loud ones?  The good ones?  Is it the CON… or is it LUGOLA?  Damed if I know.  I just know it was an old CON and I think that’s a bad sign for the future.  Is anybody recruiting them?  Their absence resulted in a roaring silence.   Like a black hole in the door to a crypt.  A yawning void invoking notions of a slowly and silently advancing darkness… followed by cultural stagnation and death.

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The CON was OK.  But only OK.  Worth the money (especially with people helping cover my expenses… thanks guys!).   I did meet a lot of excellent people.  Some I knew form years ago, and some I met for the first time.  Hell, my brother even showed up, and THAT was some unexpected shite I can tell you.  My presentations were well received… and yeah… Im shallow enough that that fact is a HUGE factor for me.  I felt relevant even without my big ship that broke and I didn’t fix I hate you Keith… but none of the best parts were CONVENTION LEVEL CONCEPTS.  None of the best parts were because of how the CON was run.

And that is the level I have been trying to focus on here.  CONVENTION LEVEL, not individual level.  I have also tried to keep my observations related directly to performance issues.  Things that if noted, and if corrected will actually result in a better Bricks LA 2019.  Improvement is the only relevant goal here.  Ok, maybe also a small bit of entertainment for the reader… but MOSTLY improvement.

If I can go next year, I will.  For me it’s more about work, time, and cost.  I want to meet the people I met this time, and see what changes, what stays the same, and what new challenges arise.  Also, I need to bring a better MOC that doesn’t collapse because it sucks ass!

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28 thoughts on “After Action Review: Bricks LA 2018

  1. A lot to digest there… If the BricksLA crew does figure out how to get more people to the con, I think the LA Chargers would like to have a word with them… What DO Los Angelinos come out in droves to see? Anything?… Maybe everyone was just burned out from putting all those little flowers onto New Year’s Day Rosebowl parade floats, and the thought of doing the equivalent with LEGO gave them the dry-heaves… ($10 Coors would have given them actual ones…). Maybe everyone just wants to “Netflix and Chill” these days…. Mysteries abound.

    I’ll circle back with more comments later, but didn’t want you to feel lonely.

    Like

    1. Ted,

      “What DO Los Angelinos come out in droves to see? Anything?”

      I think its safe to assume that they do something… people do stuff… but like I said, if they aren’t invited… they are less likely to attend.

      Along with most commenters, I am inclined to agree that the timing of the event is a major drawback in general. I know it cause me a bit of consternation. Going to a Con, right when all the holidays are over and it’s time to catch up on the work we have been ignoring?

      Attack…the calendar?

      Like

  2. One word: Mariachis.

    Can’t dispute any claims on improving BricksLA, especially the $10 Coors. But even throughout the AAR, I couldn’t distinguish what can be noted as successful on the overarching scale of the con. Was the mission a success? Yes, insofar that it had many attendees that likely covered the costs and might have put a little cash in the coffers. However, cumulatively, I’d have to call it a forty sixty split to the down. Battle won, war lost.

    Perhaps that is only my perception based on my experience at other cons, but that cannot be discounted nor lumped into a negative attitude. I freely admit that I have high expectations that when they’re not met goes against. But who doesn’t? And more importantly, who can once they have attended a con? The bar is set. BricksLA is not Chicago, but I don’t expect it to be. BricksLA is not Seattle, but again I don’t expect it to be. BricksLA is not Orem, but I expected it to be better. It wasn’t. Everything about LA was screaming for it to not possibly be less than Orem. No disrespect to BrickSlopes at all, but there was an acceptance that it was a small regional affair, a limitation that does not remotely exist in the greater LA/OC/SD/SB area. Not many Latinos in SLC either. But the success there was based on how well Poulson et al ran that con. They advertised to what little market they had and exploited a fantastic venue that SERVED NO ALCOHOL. The mixer is brilliant fun and I’m sure that BrickSlopes could have some delicious war stories if and when that staple is incorporated; however, it won’t any time soon. And that is fine. It is expected. It is compensated for. And it is not vital to the success or failure of that con. So, as much as I find it difficult to type this sentence, alcohol is not necessary. Wait a second, let me put down my beer and say that again. Alcohol is NOT necessary. Mariachis? Yes. Alcohol? Not so much.

    But getting back to the assertions that it was a success in your opinion, I just cannot see it given the area, the venue, the availability of adult beverages, the accessibility from LAX and Burbank, and the massive pool of builders. Orem has SLC next door and THAT’S it. LA is THE destination, not a fly-over. Sure it’s expensive, but name a damn city that isn’t. And as I recall, Orem was equipped with watering holes that did NOT charge $10 for Coors. But I think we see the same issues and the same solutions. My take on the value levels of those failings compared to the successes for me lumps BricksLA in an unexpected low. And lost potential on ANY scale is never good. They have a ton of room for improvement and I look forward to their rise, Ayleen is charismatic and smart and totally capable of honing BricksLA into a con that can rival the bigguns. I feel that there is a standardized booklet somewhere titled, “How to Run a LEGO Convention, And So Can You!” and it’s handed out to LUGs interested in qualifying for LUG status and getting LUGbulk. To me it seemed like the ultimate mission statement more than the con itself.

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    1. “Was the mission a success? Yes, insofar that it had many attendees that likely covered the costs and might have put a little cash in the coffers. However, cumulatively, I’d have to call it a forty sixty split to the down.”

      Yeah I struggled with the assessment. But it’s like passing a test with like, 72 percent. Ultimately, passing is passing. The CON most likely cleared their expenses and made a tiny profit, and without knowledge of the actual numbers, that is as best a guess at their “goal” as I can make. Probably their goal…Probably they achieved it.

      So dubbing the CON a failure is… “unfair” But one can’t look at the event and realize that the CON is coming in far beneath it’s potential. And that’s the bulk of my grief. Missed potential. Or, if you buy into the notion that improvement over time, then maybe we wont call it “failing to meet potential” but rather, identified opportunities for improvement.

      But this?

      “Battle won, war lost.”

      I’d call that a premature conclusion. The war is lost when the CON organizers give up the ghost on the whole effort. As long as they keep trying to host a good fest, I think they will experience both deliberate and accidental improvement.

      “Alcohol is not required”
      Yes. Agreed. Alcohol is not a categorical requirement (as opposed to table space for MOCs or bathrooms). But like you point out, in Utah, the lack of alcohol is a deliberate decision. It’s a crucial decision based on the expectations of that CONs local population. I say crucial because I think the bulk of any CONs participants are locals. So, the convention MUST be tailored to the local market, local culture, local whatever. Sure, lots of CONs are better at pulling in people from out of town… but most MOCs on tables come from the town (or general region) the CON is in. So, yes… no alcohol in Utah… and in Japan? Little if any English is spoken. The CON must be embedded in the local culture in order to achieve it’s maximum potential.

      But in the context of the model presented in LA? Alcohol plays a vital role. And at such a high cost, the alcohol, while present, is not consumed in relevant quantities. The disconnect is between the pricing and the intended effect. But… I think we already agree on that.

      Like

  3. So some thoughts on the lack of “young turks”.
    I think the time of year thing is the main killer. The kids are in school, and have all sorts of activities and college prep keeping them busy. Two local teen builders here in Louisville backed out from displaying at BU-Lou for those very reasons (but yes, they WILL be at BrickWorld 2018). The summer cons of BrickWorld and BrickFair are teeming with the young turks. They are on summer break, and have had the time off to build some stuff, now that they are back home with their collection in the basement. You want an injection of youth? Put two new pop machines in the cafeteria, and also get a glitter Bonnebell dispenser for all the girls’ bathrooms. In other words, “Vote for Summer!”

    With their time and funds limited, they will likely go where their bros go too. And who are their “bros”? During the time a great teen builder has to wait to being able to join a local R-LUG, they’ve likely found other places in the community to belong (Rebel LUG likely being the spot), or more likely they have gone into their dark ages. That local LUG has snubbed them for so long (you know, so they can drink and swear at meetings), why would they be interested in it now?

    With the con being LUG run, and with it being more-or-less standard practice that R-LUG’s have an 18 and older policy, that may always be a blind spot. They have no voice to be heard. There is action that could be taken… The question I have for all those who attended is this; “Are their any award categories for “Young Builders” at BricksLA? I know that BrickWorld has that… being surrounded by tiger-mom’s last year, and pestered about the nominations, believe me I know. They want glory for junior. Give them the prize!

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    1. No, there was not an award tailored specifically for young builders. A complete list of awards can be found here.

      And I agree with you (and Jeff) that the date is hugely problematic, especially for the younger builders. Even given that fact though, I saw maybe two young turks, and that seems super low, like they could have done better by accident.

      Like

    2. Ted,

      Yeah but… we are talking about TWO DISTINCT groups of “young” builders at the same time. We are mixing the notions of adolescent builders, and young adult builders.

      It’s a legal distinction… and it’s relevant because it constitutes the threshold for liability regarding a lot of activities and behaviors that are in turn culturally relevant.

      In the execution of the hobby? Age really seems like less and less relevant to me as a discriminator. I’m seeing to many adolescents who are hungry to learn and contribute newness to the hobby, as well as to many old builders who are content to rest on their laurels. Age doesn’t seem to indicate anything consistently.

      But in the execution of a CON? Different. Legal liability and again… expectations… are a real buzz kill. Keeping yourself legally “safe” in an environment were there are minors is tougher. Much tougher. Or, if that’s an overstatement, I think it’s fare to say that incorporating adolescents in the spirit of openness and transparency… mean many adults will have to forgo behaviors they want to indulge (drinking and cussing are at the start of the list). And because of those very real concerns, while I might not endorse all of the aged based decisions made by CON organizers around the US, I can at least acknowledge their motives.

      Your point about the adolescents being shut out, and how that results in a sort of habitualized or default setting of disinterest is totally valid (well… I totally agree anyway… and that’s almost the same thing). And I think it’s rampant in the hobby. Rampant and destructive to the hobby’s long term survivability (again… remember the cautionary tale of the Shakers).

      But the young builders I missed at Bricks LA were the 20 and up crowd. Young adults. Drinking age, legal adults… but lets face it, when seen from my cataract ridden 50 year old eye balls… still very young. I mean older younger builders (he he).

      And again, even with that group, your assertions regarding the academic calendar are spot on. I mean, if I were still collage age (back before the Louisiana purchase) I would not have hit this CON. My impression is that LUGOLA has a lot of younger builders, but to be honest, I have no data on that. It would be interesting to see the real demographics though.

      Oh… and that deal you describe with the Soccer Moms sharking around about their little angles and the awards… that sounds like some shit out of the lost pages of Dante’s Inferno! A slice of pure hell! But dude… any chance of you banging out an article about that? There is a specific reason the notion makes my mouth water.

      The no brainer, hip, now, PC position on almost ANY social issue is to go at once with the theme of inclusion. Equality. Normalizing the largest possible number of people engaged in any activity. Tearing down long standing paradigms that hinge on race, gender, culture… AGE… and getting any activity as open to as many people as possible. It’s a good default setting. We have LOTS these outdated or just plane dumb habits in our larger culture. And on the whole, I like watching them fall as members of the orthodoxy stagger about (their once proud faces now twisted masks of agony… their ossified minds thrashing with the absurd notion that this is the end of the world!). ANYWAYS… everybody (ok… lots of folks) likes to yell: Inclusion inclusion inclusion!

      But you crack the lid on a badly needed counter-argument. You provide me with a tiny glimps of a possible thesis: “Mo-inclusion is not ALWAYS mo-bettah” or maybe something like: “Universal inclusion can rob a group of it’s focus”

      Truth is though… I just want to hear the gory details of what sounds like a hellish situation!

      Attack!

      Like

      1. Yeah – after posting my original comment, I realized that I skewed too far in age in my response… But many LUGs won’t even make the exception for kids whose parents are willing to come in tow, to cover liability etc. Definietly understand the legal sensitivities.

        With a staff of 5, can imagine the LA team were stretched. Too bad they didn’t have an extra body or two simply be dedicated to engaging the new attendees. This is stuff Keith mentioned to me regarding commentary on contest builds, and it would apply here too. Prioritize the happiness of the new faces, and the rest will likely follow… Otherwise the new folks will take their cues from the jaded. rowntRee’s comments on tapping into the potential sounds spot on. Need a catalyst to get the wallflowers onto the dance floor.

        Not sure I have much to add to the “pageant mom” dynamics beyond that “Ride the Tiger” section in my Brickworld 2017 write up. The only thing I can add is that they do more damage than good when they harass the staff about when are the judges coming through to pick nominations etc. The lady in my section wanted to know because Timmy’s build had interior lighting, and features they wanted to show off (and he had a basement tournament game to get up to in Wisconsin). Overheard staff walking away saying “I hate it when people act like that.”

        https://keithlug.com/2017/06/24/ted-talks-squidman-lives/

        Like

  4. A thoroughly entertaining review, and I agree with much of the assessment.

    This was my first BricksLA, and only the second convention I’ve been to as a registered con attendee (versus public spectator). I’ll take my fair share of responsibility for failing to make it a better event, since I ducked out early all three nights (yes, you read between the lines correctly: I AM claiming to be the life of the party). Why? Because …. eh.

    I arrived right at the open on Friday only to be met with absolutely nothing to look at (admittedly, perhaps that wasnt unreasonable as setup had just started), and very few people interested in talking to an unfamiliar AFOL. I had spent hard-earned spousal credit on getting free time (I cashed in a lot of points on the “let’s fly down to LA and then I leave you alone with two children under 5!” scheme), and felt a little bummed that I hadn’t spent it more wisely.

    I was sincerely confused by how small the con was; here I am, a relative newbie representing Portland, OR, and …. wait, what? This is it? In LA? Shouldn’t there be more?… I went in thinking our hometown con was a small town affair, but I returned home feeling a lot of pride in what the BricksCascade organizers have managed to pull off, at least in recent years.

    No doubt, there were a lot of very talented builders in attendance, and so I suppose BricksLA made up in quality what it lacked in quantity. I also personally made a few great connections, although 95% of them can be attributed to Bruce Heller & his willingness to let me schmooze my way into the “How to MOC” panel. None of those folks would have even acknowledged my presence otherwise, so I’m grateful that at least one AFOL was willing to talk to strangers.

    Which is a perfectly planned segue into my main constructive critique (of the AFOL community at large, but it was on display at BricksLA): if you want more “young turks”, then perhaps consider adjusting your (general “you”) attitude towards young and new builders to be more welcoming. In fairness, once you’ve cracked through the surface, the AFOL community has been one of the better communities that I have participated in, but it takes a lot of effort to break that barrier. I don’t claim to be young (more 30-something than 20-something), but I am a relative newcomer, and have been confronted with a huge amount of skepticism and standoffishness as I’ve engaged in the community – if I had a dollar for every person at BricksLA who looked at me with some type of “I don’t know who you are, but you’re clearly participating in this whole thing” recognition and yet subsequently failed to introduce themselves or at a minimum give a knowing nod my way, I could AT LEAST buy a round or two of $10 Coors at the mixer. If we’re interested in growing the community at large, it’s going to take a concerted effort to welcome and include the new guys and gals. I’m not asking for a participation-trophy level of welcome, more of a “I see you, fellow human being who is interested in the same thing that I am, and acknowledge your existence”.

    All that said, I will most likely be back next year, and will give it a fairer try and stick around for the mixer.

    Like

    1. “I see you, fellow human being who is interested in the same thing that I am, and acknowledge your existence”.

      Goddamn right there. I think that fleshes out a major contributing factor to the entire community in that most of us are aspy, antisocial, and/or cripplingly introverted. It does raise the importance and value of a mixer at a con where that shell can be nibbled at if only slightly and temporarily.

      But there are also those of us out there that just cannot deal with those that cannot deal with others. Odd as that sounds, it’s more of a fear of a fear, a phobia phobia. Those of us who tend to be the life of a party find that it is the party that is the life of us and we feed off it as much as it feeds off us. No party, no life, and vice versa. That is the whole feel I got from BricksLA in that there was something waiting and should be happening but wasn’t. Or more directly to the point, it was waiting for something to happen that people like you and me might normally bring. But I still can’t nail down exactly what it was outside that. I can’t claim the date entirely although it was a contributing factor for sure (maybe a four day convention would be better as three is too structured and lacking points to be leisurely), I can’t blame the average age because life is a factor of personality rather than revolutions around a star (it’s never too late to have a happy childhood), I can’t even blame $10 Coors as I’ve blown through several hundred dollars on bar tabs on occasion in a single night (and am more than willing to do so again as long as there is no photographic proof.)

      But I think you raise the main issue with the community in that maybe there isn’t one. Not relegating the definition of community as being a group that is willing to pay $10 for Coors together, but definitely one that socializes in some manner. There just wasn’t anything social about the weekend other than the few and minor factions breaking away from the pack. Locally social. Just in extreme mode at BricksLA or at least blatantly obvious with only around 150 attendees. And looking at BricksLA in that light, I see similar interaction at every con. And with that, I can not only fully endorse your “acknowledge your existence” advise, but also claim responsibility for not doing that and needing to do it more in the future.

      Like

      1. rowntRee,

        “It does raise the importance and value of a mixer at a con where that shell can be nibbled at if only slightly and temporarily.”

        This is an excellent point, that perfectly explain why this is operationally significant, and not just a “feel good” issue. But forget all that! I’ve seen your dam teeth! And the image of you nibbling at my shell… even if “only slightly and temporarily” is totally distracting! Terrifying even!

        "They're all sluts!"

        Like

    2. Kelly,
      I see you fellow human being… and welcome to the Manifesto…

      I think I remember you from the CON, and I definitely remember NOT introducing myself to the person… who I think… was you. Did you sit in on one of my presentations? The one about critique? I think you did… if it wasn’t you, then it must have been somebody else (yes… I just said that…).

      You nailed this concept down pretty tight:

      “my main constructive critique (of the AFOL community at large, but it was on display at BricksLA)…”

      Exactly, totally, three bags full, correct. We are not an inviting group. We are not “anti-social” or “exclusive” in regard to our public gatherings. When the tribes meet, all are generally welcome… al be it, in a completely indifferent manner. I suppose it’s a form of equality. Generally, AFOLs don’t value deliberate communication. We often fixate on deliberate building, and then expect the build to do the talking.

      But the way you phrase it: “on display at BricksLA” addresses a cultural reality. It’s a nuanced concept, not necessarily in your face obvious… but a reality none the less. Cities have cultures, and those cultures are on display at CONs. Seattle has a welcoming culture. Seen it. It’s a thing. Keith told me that Portland was also pretty friendly. And Orem Utah? Not the same… but definitely welcoming (I mean, Utah… it’ definitely it’s own place man… not going to deny that!). Brick Fiesta in Houston? We have a problem. Almost belligerent at times (Important: I’m talking CON level here… NOT individuals!). There were times when we felt like vaguely resented interlopers at that place (totally going back if I can swing it though!). And Chi-town? Cue the traffic noise, the big city indifference, and a dash of maybe… Mmmm… premeditated but controlled aggression… like you might expect from the teamsters union if you cross the picket line? I could feel Sean Connery standing next to me saying: “That’s the Chicago way!”

      So yes, the AFOL culture does not generally celebrate social graces or interpersonal communication… and yes… At any CON, the host cities culture is on display.

      And just to be clear, in the case of LA (as with most of coastal California) that culture is not one of rejection, or resentment. It is rather, a culture based on indifference. Cali is wealthy, fast paced, and super media intensive. The locals are on the move, and focused on perusing their numerous agenda (even if that agenda is just getting lunch). And while main stream California rhetoric (espoused by municipal leaders and state level advocates) is focused on themes like respect, freedom, cultural pluralism, and tolerance… the actual cultural focus is one of “I don’t care about you in the slightest as long as you do not interfere with my agenda”.

      What? I can bag on Cali! I’m from San Diego for crying out loud!

      Again, welcome to the blog, and I hope we hear more from you in the year ahead!

      Attack!

      Like

  5. Valid points. Retaining the younger builders is just as important as attracting them to begin with.

    Not sure if you’ve read Keith’s assessment, but if you scroll down to “The Pokemon” section you will see that he experienced the same social awkwardness, and many times from the people he HAD met before. The hobby has a fair share of people that fall along the Asperger’s spectrum in social awkwardness, whether officially diagnosed or just in general personality. It comes with the territory (along with home schooled Evangelicals too)
    https://keithlug.com/2018/01/14/bricks-la-2018-tales-of-a-jaded-lego-nerd/

    Going in “cold” to a Lego conference can be tough to break the ice as well. I remember getting some indifferent stares at my first con as well. It’s good to have a least one person you know who is attending and can help introduce you to others. Maybe people’s hearts weren’t in it at BricksLA due to holiday fatigue? I think the time of year could definitely make the event feel more like a chore than a social gathering to be excited about.

    Did BricksLA offer a separate “new attendee” seminar, or just an opening ceremony? It may be just the larger cons (5-day) that offer that newbie thing, but that could help things get off on the right foot as well. It a chance for new attendees to meet similar people in the same boat. Otherwise, any house warming committees are typically few and far between. And mixers end up being people standing around in their groups with very little mixing between them.

    I also don’t know the dynamics they had on Friday set-up, but a lot of people will be focused on getting their displays set-up. It sounds like you didn’t attend with many MOC’s of your own?.. Then a good way to break the ice is to offer to help someone out. Their MOCs are always going to be a great ice breaker… people like to talk to fellow AFOL’s about their builds (maybe less to the public though).

    Anyway, glad to see you join us here at the Manifesto… And please, please say that you found it from the poker chips that Keith and Rutherford were handing out. That could grow Keith’s Grinch heart by at least three sizes 🙂

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  6. Mike – I like your POV on this article – ie: your mission/thesis being concerned with the intent of those running the con, and determining ‘success’ from that view. I think that as AFOL attendees we don’t usually think of things from that POV – it’s more about our own individual perspective.

    As a first time attendee to this con, and relatively new to cons in general, I would say overall that I enjoyed the event. My reasons for coming to this con were that it was in January in LA (I’m from Calgary where it’s always colder), it was being run by a friend who I had volunteered to help, some people I had met at previous cons were going, and I spotted names of some builders attending who I wanted to meet in person (after following them online). Based on those inputs, my goals were met. However, from an AFOL attendee perspective I did expect ‘more’ from Bricks LA, and I think the gaps can be attributed to many of the reasons you’ve already talked about – location, population, LUG participation, younger builders, etc. The only 2 cons I’ve been to were both ‘bigger’ than this (BrickCan and BrickCon), and perhaps my expectations were incorrectly set because of my experiences there.

    I perhaps had a slightly different POV than most AFOL attendees as I volunteered to help Ayleen and others (in any way needed), and had a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ view. Personally this is where I get the most value out of going to a con – helping out with the organization/logistics allows me to see how things are done, meet new people, and try to help everyone have the best experience they can. The main thing I noticed is that administration of this con was more ‘laid back’ or less organized than the other 2, and there seemed to be less people involved (admin/volunteers). I assumed this was due to ‘local LA attitude’ or just the con team’s way of doing things. Being a ‘super organizer’ personally, it made me feel like people didn’t always know what was going on (both staff and attendees), and administration could have been handled better. I agree that more local LUG participation (as admin/volunteers) would have helped. But that may just be my perception.

    The timing was perfect for me – I get my year’s allotment of vacation on Jan 1, so I had days to use and could just tack a week onto my Xmas/New Year vacation. Also, I had the 2 weeks prior to the event over Xmas/New Year break to work on my build (even though I didn’t finish it, and ended up bringing some older builds – but that was totally my fault for overestimating what I could accomplish with time and parts on hand). So I guess it depends on personal circumstances whether you like/dislike the timing. If it had been 2-3 weeks later, I may not have been able to attend. I can also say (because I discussed this with the admins) that a January date was specifically chosen to not conflict with other cons, and try to be the ‘first’ in the year; the specific date is impacted by the convention centre’s availability and other events happening (ie: didn’t want to repeat the issues with the previous year and the tattoo convention overlap).

    I also noticed the lack of diversity – both in AFOL attendees and public. I expected LA to be more diverse than any other con due to population demographics, but it seemed a microcosm of the usuals (30-60 yr old white guys), and noticeably lacking in younger (20-30 yr) builders who you see a lot of at BrickCon. I do think both public and AFOL attendance could benefit from more targeted advertising and better participation from local LUGs as you suggest.

    I love Kelley’s comment “I see you, fellow human being who is interested in the same thing that I am, and acknowledge your existence”. Being new to cons I definitely feel this too. And I agree with many of the things you and others have mentioned about the (stereo)typical personality traits of AFOLs and how we interact in social settings. I did feel overall that the attendees at BricksLA were somewhat standoffish. I am generally introverted and get overloaded by too many people and too much noise, but I still want to interact with and meet people. My personal approach is to wander around the floor looking at the builds. When something catches my eye, I want to look at it in detail (and perhaps silence so I can actually process what I am seeing). If someone is working on setting it up or standing behind it and looks open to talking, I might ask them a question to try to engage and achieve my goal of meeting new people, and learn more about their awesome build! I find using the ‘Lego build as a subject’ easier than just going up to someone unknown, or meeting people in groups. My other tactic is to sign up for team games, as this forces you to meet the (new) people on your team.
    Both BrickCon and BrickCan started on Thursday, with Thu and Fri being AFOL days (no public). The extra day with no public lets you look at builds and meet/talk to builders. When public is on the floor, I have no interest in being out there (too crowded/noisy); also public hours (Sat Sun) are usually the time when AFOLs are attending talks/events. At BricksLA there was time for viewing builds/meeting people on Friday, but it seemed that many builders left it until Friday evening to show up, so this meant little time to engage with them. Maybe if the con started Thursday, people would show up sometime Thu and have all day Fri for mingling?

    I can’t say much about the mixer – I had had a bit too much ‘peopling’ by Saturday evening and needed a break, so I spent most of the time out front helping Jenn and Steven with the brick engraving orders. By the time I got in there, I had missed out on most of the shenanigans (or what there was at least), but did get to meet your brother! And by that time the vodka was all gone and I was left with the $10 Coors – not a fan (of the brand or price). I was hoping an ‘after hours’ party would spring up at the hotel or a nearby venue, but everyone just seemed to leave. Maybe I missed out (or don’t know the right people!)…

    I’ll stop for now, but like you I could talk at length especially if prompted on a specific topic 🙂 Overall I had a good time, and met some great new people (there was this ‘Mark’ guy…). Would I come back next year? Not sure, but the fact that it’s in January in LA (where it’s warm) might be enough to sway me!

    Like

  7. Cyndi, welcome to the blog!
    Yeah all that but also… your technical savvy was indispensable in the timely completion of some Lego related rhetoric. I would have been dead in the water if you hadn’t asked the insightful question and gotten things moving a whole lot faster:

    “why do you open the image, copy it to the desk top, and then copy it to your slide? That’s like five extra steps… where did you learn how to use computers… ”

    It’s very true, in the discussion of almost any topic on this blog, most of us tend to frame the issue in terms of our own immediate personal context. I guess there are several reasons for this ( Like there could possibly be just ONE reason for anything AFOLs do!).

    1. Framing our analysis in terms of our personal experiences inoculates us against rebuttal. After all… if I’m talking about my own motives or my own beliefs, who can anyone challenge my assertions? It’s like an easy essay in school. It’s about my own opinions… whew! No math, no diagrams, and no explaining somebody else’s thought process!

    2. We really do have an ever increasing societal pressure not to publically discuss the actions or words of other individuals. There are to many hazards associated with it. So we tend to personalize as much as we can, because again… minimal risk.

    But it makes it difficult to really look at a CON, a LUG, or any other collective effort at the organizational level. Everything turns into a collection of personal opinions, seldom reinforced by specific observations or arguments.

    I was talking to Keith about the lack of any “after hours party” and neither of us really could figure that out. Maybe, most of the attendies lived within a short drive of the CON… and so this made people tend to split into smaller groups faster? Like, if the CON is in this remote location… far enough away that most attendees are actually living in the nearest two or three hotels… then there would be fewer, but closer and larger parties (in those hotels). But at LA, everybody knows they are driving home every day… and so they don’t want to drink at the mixer, and they just leave when its done.

    Darned if I know.

    Hope we hear from you periodically in the year ahead!

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  8. Dear editor…

    Get that picture of dumbass Elliot Ness out of there…

    And replace him nicotine addicted ass with the map showing the density and distribution of the US Latino population.

    I thank you in advance for your timely assistance in this matter.

    Sincerely,
    concerned constant reader, and ethno-cartographer,
    Ponce Deleon Ness.

    Like

    1. That is Jack Webb you hippie-jackass-communist, suppose you tell me why you think it’s Elliot Ness? Uh huh…is that so? Just the facts Rutherford. You mention Jack Webb in the article, dumbass. Elliot Ness? It says Jack Webb right next to his face!

      And maybe if you want your precious map on the article you should…you know…actually send it to me? You sent me a dozen emails and none of them had this mystery map.

      Like

  9. Uh huh… Suppose you tell me?

    I meant Jack Webb… but let me make it up to you with this badly needed dose of West Coast culture…

    Like

    1. Fixed.

      Also, you jacked up the Michael Ironside reference. Commander John “Stinger” Jardian in Top Gun, and Principal Gerald Strickland in Back to the Future were both played by character actor James Tolkan.

      You’re such a Michael Ironside apologist, you see him everywhere!

      Like

      1. Why do you hate your country you jackass?

        Jester… The famed instrctor from the Top Gun school is Ironside. He is also a scanner so dont ever do a discussion panel with him!

        Mavs boss, the CAG who sends him to Top Gun… Is also principal Stricklan.

        And I dont want to hang out with Prince and Ironside. I want to hang out with Prince and Principal Stricklan.

        How can you not understand this?

        Slacker!

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  10. Jesus Christ man, this one was top-heavy even by your standards as king o’ gasbags. It took you 1,528 words to get through the introduction and on to the action, that’s 3 pages double spaced! I don’t think I can be accused of being a card-carrying member of the TLDR crowd but I think you could have cut down on the definition of an AAR, while most people have not experienced it in the military context, it’s not a tough concept to grasp and you could have transitioned to the good stuff a hell of a lot sooner, and as much as I hate to admit it, there was a lot of good stuff! I was prepared to be bored when you told me that you were sticking to the big-picture long view, but I think Ayleen Dority and the officers of LUGoLA would benefit from reading the article.

    I did appreciate your son’s observations about Prince, I knew he was a perfectionist but I didn’t know he did the AAR thing. My favorite celebrity example is Tony Gwynn (RIP). In an era before it was a common requirement for athletes to rigorously study game-footage, Tony would drag a small TV/VCR combo on the road with him so he could watch videos of his at-bats, always looking to see what he did right and wrong. Sometimes he would watch the footage right after games and take extra batting practice.

    I think it’s very interesting that the commentariat appears to be studiously avoiding your observations on the lack of Latino participation in LUGoLA and Bricks LA. I don’t know if it’s because of the topic (race) where people don’t want to discuss it even in the relatively non-threatening environment of the Manifesto. Maybe it’s just the topic is too dull, and nobody outside of LA cares about the racial makeup and growth potential for a regional convention. I absolutely agree with you (ouch…I feel that stabbing sensation again), the convention and LUG is old and white, which doesn’t bode well for the growth of either one. I also agree that it seems relatively simple to reach out to that community, all they really need to do is find someone in the LUG who is bilingual and willing to help out. Even without that resource I bet a simple call to the Los Angeles office of Latino Chamber of Commerce would be a good starting point, they offer help to businesses and organizations right there in the header. For the record, I don’t think this a result of racisim, I think the good people of BricksLA would welcome a browning of their numbers because it only feeds the bottom line, I think Ted tapped into something in the comments when he basically said that So Cal types have are lazy and have a million distractions, a million given events or things to do on a daily basis, even in the dead of winter. I think the same thing is reflected in the I LUG NY group, they are not nearly as big as you would expect from the number 1 market in America.

    As for the issue of the Young Turks, I think we have an incomplete picture of LUGola, to say if that’s a problem for them. Ayleen mentioned Bricks LA is an ‘adult con’, not family or kid-focused like Bricks By the Bay and other conventions. LUGoLA might be full of young people, and maybe because of the timing they just don’t come to the convention. I do agree (and mentioned it in my own rant) that the lack of young builders at the con was a bummer.

    Good article dude, and it was definitely the perfect counterpart to my emotional rantings, there is some real food for thought here for anyone interested in the topic. I think the old adage “if it bleeds it leads” applies, I took out a box-cutter and went to work and the numbers say they prefer that approach than your more constructive approach.

    Where are you Absurde? Hoffman? I can’t believe you guys have nothing to say on the topic. That intro probably put you to sleep, I understand.

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    1. I have zero experience with these things, what do you expect me to say? :)) You can find my exhibit involvement recipe in Ted’s article

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    2. That intro did actually take me four or five tries to get through and made me physically ill, when the norm for Rutherford is two or three and a migraine. Do you think he could have reworded the same thing another half dozen times? He rants about reaching out to wider audiences while simultaneously alienating the AFOL’s hyperactivity and short attention span.

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    1. Hey now. Don’t drag me back into this. I sent my article to Keith before yours got published. It think it turned out pretty good considering, almost prophetic… I know my AAR’s from my mission statements… honest!

      Like

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