Ted Talks: An AFOL’s Journey to Enlightenment

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

35140583843_3ab350652c_o.jpg

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

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

My 1st LEGO set was…

Lame.  Seriously lame.

445-1.jpg

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

“Steamroller!!!”

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

194-1.jpg

What eventually got me hooked on LEGO was…

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

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

442-1.jpg

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

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

TRS-80_Color_Computer_2-64K.jpg

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

 “The truth is I never left you…”

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

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

“All Aboard the AFOL Train!”

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

10020-1.jpg

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

savethetrains_02.jpg

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

A: My LEGO part collection starting out again.

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

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

3639703553_43e626f490_o.jpg

Look what I can do!

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

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

Progress

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

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

4505705876_e59aacc6a0_o.jpg

The Parasite

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

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

Enlightenment                                                                                                            

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

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

35612732766_86bff44146_o.jpg

“No one critiques my builds anymore…”

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

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

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

12154653404_8f11bcbca7_o.jpg

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

The Journey Continues…

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

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

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

15711355880_15df8958ca_o.jpg

“Public hours begin in 5… 4…. 3….”

“SWOOSH…”

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

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

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

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

21397322908_95b19f28b2_o.jpg

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

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

th

 

Ted Talks: Party Hosting Tips

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

YOU LOST!!!

YOU LOST!!! Artwork by polywen

Have you ever entered an on-line building contest, and then thought afterwards, “Hey. I think I’d like to host one myself someday”?  First off, “God Bless You”, you masochist of a human being. Secondly, did you read Rutherford’s “Fire for Effect” article “Give me the prize!” , and the comment section too?  And you STILL want to proceed?  YOU FOOL!!!  I’ll offer a few suggestions on running a contest … but honestly, TURN BACK NOW!!!

3725242363_15313bb6c6_o.jpg

Legohaulic: “Tea Party Time.”

Setting the Table

Deciding the LEGO building genre itself is the easy part (Space, Castle, Licensed Sets, Architecture, etc.).  Setting the actual sub-theme, scope, and build requirements for the contest are the tricky parts.  You want an interesting contest idea that excites people, and that has simple requirements that won’t bog things down.  Contest ideas tend to fall along a spectrum between:

  • A very specific contest idea that requires putting a lot of thought into building it (as well as into creating backgrounds and backstories) – These contests usually result in only one entry per person, and in fewer entries Some entrants even abandon midway (no matter how much extra time you give them).
  • A general contest idea that sparks so many building ideas that the entrants don’t know which to start first – These contests typically result in a ton of entries, with some entrants who will not be up-to-par, since the level of time/parts investment is far lower.

I’ve hosted contests near both ends of the spectrum.  The ‘general contest idea’ (a.k.a. the “kegger”), is the most gratifying for all involved, and draws in the most contest newbies.  ‘Specific contests’ (a.k.a. the “dinner parties”) are O.K., but just plan to have a more intimate affair.  The required build size can also play a part in the number of guest that show up; the bigger the MOC size requirement, the fewer entries you may get.  Having no size restriction at all seems to have the opposite effect…

“I want to rock and roll all night, and party every day!” – KISS

That’s a worthy life-goal, coming from men dressed in platform boots, but the K.I.S.S. I am referring to is “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”  This means YOU.  Think back to all of the really fun contests you’ve participated in.  I’ll bet they K.I.S.S.ed it just right; Steampunk – Rock and Roll, FBTB – MOC Madness (the Original), Speederbike Contests, Clue-Redux Vignettes… These weren’t sloppy, wet kisses with too much tongue up the nose.  These were simple, clearly defined ideas that captured the open-ended imagination of all involved.

My Lady...?

Agaethon29 – “My lady! Wherefore dost thou kiss a frog?!”…

“Forced Fun” is the WORST!

“O.K. everybody! It’s time to play charades!” – Ugh.  When setting the theme, don’t let your ego get in the way.  Don’t pick a restrictive sub-theme, or make the contest restrictions too elaborate, in an effort to get the MOC’s that YOU want to see.  If you decide to “force the fun” in this way, don’t expect a large turn-out.  Your first priority is entertaining YOUR GUESTS, not the other way around. “Sir, step away from the karaoke machine!” (… unless your DR. Church. I hear that guy can belt out a tune that’ll make the dolls swoon).

To some degree, I made the “forced fun” mistake with the “Steampunk: Bricks & Boilers Exposition” contest.  I tried to force the steampunk theme into places where the steampunk masses didn’t want to go (Give me back my brown!”).  I wanted to see steampunk from cultures other than the merry old Victorian Englishmen.  I wanted to see steam power applied in ways beyond just vehicles and weapons.  I bounced my ideas off of Guy and Rod, and we honed it down into that final KISS concept.  Despite that, I literally forced fun onto my guests, as I had them build us steampunk carnival rides.  As a result, we didn’t get a massive amount of entries… then again, maybe the interest in Steampunk had simply run out of steam by then…

“Dance for me, dammit!  Dance! DANCE!”

26681626016_13a0c532f0_o.jpg

The Clockwork Show (Video)

Charis Stella – The Clockwork Show

Party Favors / Door Prizes

Q: What is a contest without prizes?  A: The sound of one hand clapping… across Boy Wonder’s face! 

Physical prizes are the perfect enticement to bring in the party guests.  They draw new builders out from the woodwork, and the veteran builders will then go where the action is.  Prizes can transform even the limpest of wallflowers into dancing machines!  However, prizes can’t overcome any miscalculations you’ve already made in “setting the table”.  All you’ll get then are uninspired MOC’s that meet the minimum requirements, and the submitters counting down the days until the prize winners are announced… tick… tick… tick… “So, when will the winners be announced?”

You can certainly pay for the prizes yourself, but you shouldn’t have to.  Ask around to see if any mainstream blogs, vendors, stores, etc. are interested in sponsoring them.  Even though we made MOC trophies for the speederbike contest, we still reached out for sponsors.  Their responses back exceeded our modest expectations (YOU GUYS ROCK!!!).  If/when you do ask, it helps to already have some street-cred in the FOL Community, or at least be able to name drop a few folks who do.  Otherwise, you are just another random moocher looking for MOAR BrickArms protos PLZ!

Uncle Rico – “We gotta look legit, mayn.”

“Pimpin’ Made Easy”

It helps to have a good party flyer to make your grand contest announcement.  You might be able to get by without making one, but think of it as your own MOC for the contest.  This poster is your chance to get in on the action, as well as an awesome way to promote your sponsors at the same time.   _zenn went through a lot of iterations in creating our Speederbike Contest Poster, and I did as well when making the Steampunk Bricks & Boilers poster (version 10 was the winner).

“Save the date”

Contest timing can be tricky.  Hopefully no one else will be launching a contest at the same time as you, and there isn’t some special building month going on too (or people prepping for a CON).  Since it is an unwritten rule not to announce a contest prior to its start date, you probably won’t know until after you pull the trigger.

As for contest duration, a month-long contest should provide ample time to build, and even to order some parts from BrickLink if needed.  Anything longer is not that entertaining.  Many people will eventually forget that your contest is even going on… tick… tick…tick… “So, when will the winners be announced?”

If you still want to offer a longer build time, try scheduling a 1-month run time, but announce the contest 2-weeks before the start.  That way, it will still give the perception of keeping a shorter time frame and that you have your act together (vs. giving a 2-week extension at the end that looks desperate).

 “It’s finally Party Time!” – Let meet your guests…

26524239915_36ed6534e6_o.jpgMike Dung: Characters from Love Live! School Idol Project

Guest #1: The Ice Breaker – The “Ice Breaker” is the personal hero of every contest host.  They enter the contest first, and now you can breathe a huge sigh of relief.  Their entries offer you an early gauge of how the contest will go, and if you need to course correct if they are way off the mark.  Allowing people to swap entries until the deadline also relieves much of the risk of being the “Ice Breaker”.  It lets them rework their entry if a better idea happens to comes along…like one from…

Guest #2: The Tone Setter – These people “throw down the gauntlet” in the contest, and grab the attention of the rest of the community.  Many times the “Ice Breaker’s” entry is what is expected, and the “Tone Setter” raises the bar with that unexpected twist…  More people take notice, and if the “Tone Setter” has a huge on-line following then hold on tight. Their entourage now knows where the party’s at, and they are on the way to crash it… the REAL fun is about to start…

Guest #3: The Closer – “Closers” are the folks that enter the contest during the final week, having picked up that earlier thrown-down gauntlet of the “Tone Setter” and slapped them back.   9 times out of 10, “The Closer” in any sci-fi contest is none other than Tyler Clites. There are many theories as to why the “Closer” waits until the last week of the contest to enter their MOC:

  1. The “Tone Setter” drew them into the contest, so naturally they’d enter later,
  2. They want to keep their ideas fresh in the minds of judges,
  3. They don’t want to give their competition enough time to catch up,
  4. They are holding back so they don’t scare off the competition.

It could be any combination of the above, or none of the above.  Whatever their motives, don’t make the mistake of confusing the “Closer” with the “just made it by the deadline” builders.  These “Closers” are proven veterans, and those last-minute people need to “PUT… THAT COFFEE… DOWN…”

“Coffee’s for closers only.”

Guest #4: The Pleader –There are always folks that procrastinate, that have upload issues, that say their dog ate their bricks, etc. etc.  You can accommodate them if you wish.  However, the more you do, the more you disrespect all of the people who got their SHIP together. You’ll also find that wherever you draw the line, there will still be ONE more entrant with sad puppy eyes staring back at you from across the other side of it… Sorry – deadlines are deadlines, and the gates are closed to Wally World.

Guest #5: The Helpless Finally, these people are the ones dancing by themselves, like dirty neo-hippies at an outdoor Phish concert… except they are actually at a Civil War Reenactment.  Lord only knows what they are thinking.  We had a few “Helpless” entrants during the speederbike contest that colored waaay outside the lines, but we didn’t call them out.  They were having fun, so why harsh their buzz?  It was on them if they couldn’t learn by example from the other entrants.  When you have very few prize winners per category, and a lot of entrants, you can do that.  The cream will always rise to the top.

34129614833_ea0259c3c6_o.jpg…I may have finally found Keith’s speederbike inspiration!!!

RSVP’s and Sending out Personal Invites

So let’s say that the “Ice Breaker” still hasn’t shown up to the party and you’re getting nervous.  Well then, it’s time to call around to get people to show up. I’m sure there were a few people that you expected to enter based on the contest theme.  Reach out to them and say “Hey. In case you missed it…”  You can also trawl the flickr photo streams for recent MOC’s that fit whatever it is your contest is about.  If you find some, reach out to the builder and say “Hey. If this is for the contest, you need to enter it -=place link here=-…”    I openly admit that I trawled for a few entrants like this for the Steampunk B&B contest.  Desperate times…

The Rager

At the other extreme, if your contest really catches fire, then you just sit back and hang on tight.  Imagine scenes from basically any out-of-control “Party Movie” ever made.  That’s what you’ve got on your hands.  During the speederbike contest, there were even people building speederbikes just because they saw everyone else building them.  They didn’t even know there was a contest going on, or enter them.

When your party turns into a “Rager”, you can either a) run around with drink coasters to keep water rings from F’ing up the furniture, or b) crank the music, let the good times roll, and worry about the clean-up when the party (and your hangover) is over.  You better know the answer to this one…  Les seBon Ton’ Roulet!

4914013030_2643cb6395_o.jpgDR.Church – Party like its Twenty-Ninety-Nine!

Judging, Results, and Sending out Prizes 

As a judge, you are usually looking for high creativity (with NPU), a nice presentation, and technically clean designs. The more judges you have involved the better, but don’t drag out the process by waiting too long to gather their inputs.  Taking 1-2 weeks to judge and announce the results is typical.

For contests hosted in flickr groups, a common judging approach is for each judge to create a Top-10 list, and then each rank is worth a certain number of points.  You then add them up, and compare notes.

Alternatively, there is the mass-voting approach.  In my opinion, FBTB run the best contests around, and their contests are decided in this way.  Their current forum members determine the winner.  “But what about people trying to stuff the ballot box using multiple accounts”, you ask?  Well, a few years back, FBTB caught some chump trying to do exactly that from the same computer (despite that entrant’s “Good Intentions”… cough…. cough…).  Kudos to FBTB for catching him in the act, and bouncing him from the party… Now if they could only remedy their notoriously delayed prize shipping.

There is nothing worse than having to wait 1-2 months to get your prizes… and it’s bad karma if you ever want to host a party again.  The quicker you can announce the winners, and get the prizes into their hands, the better.  Be prepared to ship off those prizes as soon as you get the addresses from the winners.

6012473037_9325c5d7d7_o.jpg

Winter Village Post Office

Personalized “Thank You” Notes

Take the time to leave comments on a MOC from each person who entered the contest.  Focus first on the newbies who created brand new flickr accounts to enter the contest, and encourage them (sage advice from Keith).  For many, your contest may have been their first building contest ever, maybe even their first MOC.  It is great for them to receive that personalized feedback, and hopefully you’ll get some great feedback in return:

  • “-Wow….Thanks a lot. Maybe it’s just a comment for you… but this really means a lot to me 🙂
    This is really building me up to build more!”
  • “Thanks again for stirring up the building community with a rousing contest! Most fun I’ve had for a while in this virtual space”
  • “Thank you so much! It’s the first time in too long that I’ve really sat down and just built. I had an enjoyable experience and look forward to building more for the fun of it… My thanks to you and the others for hosting such a great contest!”
  • “Thank you very much for the kind words on all my builds, you’ve made me feel very proud of them regardless of the outcome”
  • etc…

Commenting on the MOC’s of the winners and runners-up can wait ….and when you finally do…..

6071241592_9d42b1e5e6_o.jpgFigbarf…Legohaulic style.

Don’t get drunk at your own party and puke all over the guests…

If at some point the guests at the party are talking more about you than the contest, then you’ve overstepped your bounds.  Your job is simply to set the stage for your party guests to have fun, and let them do their thing. It’s easy to get drawn in by the euphoria, but don’t do it. Know your role, as both host and judge.

In my case, I tried too hard on keeping my speederbike contest guests entertained, and I got sloppy drunk on it during my comments/critiques.  I even puked on many frequent readers of this fair blog (including the maestro himself); I spilled a drink on one MOC’s comment page, then puked up words all over another one… it was such a mess, they couldn’t make out anything “Is that a compliment, an insult, or some kind of accusation?… Oh wait. It’s just a piece of corn.”  The last straw was spilling another drink on a broh’s bro.  At that point, it was “party’s over, pal!”  I got dropped with the verbal equivalent of a pile driver… “Mea culpa”. I owned it.  I apologized to the offended directly, hat in hand, and made the walk of shame… Live and learn; Learn and live…

…And finally, don’t host it alone.

253055698_eed9077e5f_o.jpgDunechaser – Teamwork

After that debacle, Coleblaq eloquently brought the party back under control as my “wingman”.  My two contest-hosting compadres picked me up, wiped the crud off my chin, and we closed out the party together.  Running a good contest can take a lot of effort, and in turns we all carried the load.  I acted as the front-man most of the time, since I was the “native English speaker”.  I was also able to check the contest forums the most frequently.  But Cole and _zenn honestly did just as much behind the scenes, if not more, as I did up front.  We were truly a contest hosting triumvirate.  When we all work together, everybody wins!

With that, this party of an article is now officially over!  

The lights have been turned back on, and the clean-up crew has arrived with the sawdust and mop buckets. 

5729262611_0fe7e92b57_o.jpg

apocalust – Janitor

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay up here.  Move on down to the “After Party” in the comments section below and chat awhile (BYO-cookies and fruit punch).

Ted Talks: “Squidman LIVES!”

It’s a banner week here in the home offices of the Manifesto because it marks the second full week without Rutherford (Mr. gasbag will return next week) and the second written contribution by one of our valued constant readers.  This time it’s friend of the blog and master of the speeder-bike Ted Andes, who will be sharing his recent experiences at the biggest convention in the United States.  The series is titled “Ted Talks” but that’s a little optimistic on my part, Ted has not committed to anything more than this one-shot essay, but after reading these anecdotes I hope he considers it.  You may remember Ted from  his many popular models such as “Intrepid”Trail Blazer and my personal favorite, “Hammerhead”.  Without any further ado, take it away Ted!

“Over the hills, and far away…”

I’m guessing most of you at this stage have read an article or two about attending a LEGO Con, or perhaps you have been to one yourself.  I just got back from BrickWorld Chicago 2017, and I thought I’d share some interesting anecdotes of my own… from the perspective of a middle-aged AFOL.

35395528156_fef777d77c_o.jpg(“World of Lights” Photo courtesy of Patty )

“You’ll always remember your first time.”

BrickWorld 2016 was the first LEGO Con I ever attended.  I always thought that BrickCon would be my first someday, but once my eyes became locked into BrickWorld’s “come hither” gaze, it was destiny.  She was only a short-ish 5-hour’s drive away, and holding out for a cross-country romance with BrickCon was just living in a dream world…  sorry to leave you “Sleepless in Seattle”, BC.

I didn’t think I’d actually ever attend a LEGO Con in reality.  As a married dude, I always try to sync my vacation days with my wife’s so we can take those fun trips together to faraway lands (I hear Matango Island is beautiful in the spring…).  She’s not into the hobby, so dragging her with me to a LEGO Con would always be an impossible sell.

When she took a new job last year, all of a sudden I had a ton of extra vacation days piled up compared to her (I had been saving some in case we needed to relocate).  I had days to burn.  The one week that she said would be best for me to take a solo vacation coincided with BrickWorld 2016.  Wait, what!? Once I made that realization, just 6-weeks before BW and on the last day you could request a display table, it was crunch time.  After some prodding from Simon Liu, I pulled together an impromptu speederbike collab for BrickWorld. Christopher Hoffmann and others joined the cause, and fun was had by all…

“She let you come back!?”

When you finally do get to the Con, and meet so many people that you had only known through the various on-line LEGO social networks, it is just like seeing some old friends again.  You cast aside your better judgement and stay up until at least 3am each “night”, chatting, drinking (if you’re of drinking age), and eventually partaking in general mischief.  I won’t divulge all of the BrickWorld shenanigans that go on, because there are just some things you “dear readers” are not allowed to live vicariously through (get your butt to a Con!)…

…and also, because I’d like to be allowed to go back again.  At BW16, I accidentally “butt-dialed” my wife at 4am after one of “those nights”.  I was trying to set my phone alarm so I wouldn’t sleep through hotel check out (which I did anyway).  Through some 1-in-a-million chance, I hit the option to dial back the most recent number.  Ugh.  I really am surprised she let me come back again this year.  Lessons definitely learned, and I was a saint at BW17… honest. I even joined the Pub Scouts…

“Psst… Is he your son?”

BW17 was my second Con in a row where someone had innocently inquired “Is he your son?” about an AFOL builder standing next to me.  As a married dude with no kids, it’s a harsh reality check (dude, you’re soooo old now!).  Christopher was my “son #1” at BW16, and then Rocco Buttliere became “son #2” this year… At least when I hang out with Tyler Halliwell at BrickWorld, our height difference doesn’t beg that question…

Workshops and Presentations

I didn’t get around to attending many workshops or presentations this year, but I did make it a point to “Paint with Mel” Finelli.  Why?  Well, why not?  … P.S.  SQUIDMAN LIVES!!!

35030662140_7c9e9607cf_o.jpg

 “FEED THAT MONSTER!”

Awards… oh my.  First off – go back and read the “Fire for Effect” article “Give me the prize!” “Give me the Prize”.  Here’s what I said in the comments: “Guess what? I am also for the poorly defined, WTF-judged competitions too, as long as you know that it’s WTF up-front…”  Well, BW17 awards nominations delivered in the “WTF?” category once again.

The elephant in the room is that I had TWO MOC nominations in the “Best Land Vehicle” category; One for “Mr. Mechtorian’s Mobile Menagerie” which was voted as the eventual winner, and the other for “The Aerie” Mobile Launch Tower.  The first nomination was the one I had hoped to get.  The 2nd build I was certainly proud of (the thing is oozing SNOT), but lord knows which category it really belonged in, if any. I just mounted the tower onto tank treads because I thought it looked cool, and prepared for another “N-4-N” year (Nominated 4 Nuthin’).

Usually at BW, it is one nomination per category, per person.  So why did this “space oddity” of two nominations happen?  From what I hear, the nomination process for BrickWorld is as unnecessarily complex as one of Rube Goldberg’s machines , so who can say?  I chalk it up to it being the first-time BW used electronic balloting. The voting pages for most categories only showed MOC pictures at the top, then the MOC names with voting buttons at the bottom; No builder’s names. Perhaps if they included them, they would have caught the double-dip and things wouldn’t have gone down that way.

Gil Chagas  and Caleb Wagoner’s vehicles were both certainly worthy of nomination…Gil’s MOC was old-ish but it was still new to BW.

15249579135_3ac8d3d700_o.jpg

Caleb’s Honda Civic (I mean Subaru WRX) has yet to be uploaded to his photo-stream, but here is a shot courtesy of Nick Brick.

34519684864_66a2ddc1c7_o.jpg

There were also some other mysterious nominations in the both the replica and group display categories as well… but I wasn’t involved, and who cares at this stage, right?… well….

“Ride the Tiger”

Some BW parents would tell you (repeatedly) that all of their kid’s creations were worthy of nomination.  I had to listen to so many stories about last year’s injustices, then the primping and preening of their kids for when the judges came by to pick the nominations this year, then the pimping of their kids for face time with the various YouTube podcasters (you’re a saint for putting up with that, Mr. Hanlon)…  Newsflash! The parents are hella serious about their kid’s builds, and the nominations!  Otherwise, their special snowflakes might melt!

I took my chances this year, and let random fate determine my display table locations… and I was surrounded by some great examples of this Little-League, helicopter-parent dynamic.   Just wish they would have had the courtesy to bring some orange slices…

“The kids are alright…”

“Tiger Moms” aside, the great thing about this hobby is that as builders, we are all peers regardless of our ages.  There are some really great, unsung teen builders out there (and with great parents).  I ended up chatting with a lot with them, and chatting with their parents too… most of which were my age anyway.  Damn, I really AM old!  Shout outs to #1 Nomad  Kingdomviewbricks and  John Imp , and their cool parents that offered me some pizza slices and spicy beef sticks.  Who needs orange slices?…  Respect.

Also, a shout out to Digger, my #1 BrickWorld fan. I met him last year, as he really loved the speeder-bike rally. I took the time to hang out, and show him how I put together some of the different models.  When I ran into him again this year, he had a big smile on his face. “Mr. Andes! I hoped you’d be back again this year. Can I show you the speeder-bikes I built?”…  Heck yeah!… but please. Call me Ted.

“I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone….”

“There was no train station. There was no downtown… My city had been pulled down, reduced to parking spaces”.  So my primary co-collaborator on the Great Steambug Migration had to leave early Sunday morning, and to my surprise took their town backdrop with them. I’ll just say that I didn’t need any caffeine to wake up.  That woke me up just fine.

35030192620_c7bd5e1666_o.jpg

It was their 1st con, and they weren’t aware of the rule that you can’t take down displays before the end of public hours.  For my collabs, I always come prepared just in case something happens or someone backs out last-minute, so “no-harm, no foul”. I bring this story up not to vilify, as I have much love for my co-collaborator, but just to say “stuff happens” at a con… and that “stuff” provides the perfect fertilizer in which things can grow….

“We can rebuild! We have the technology.”

I had brought enough spare brick to build an impromptu backdrop.  No reason to get distraught.  I got started “building that wall”, and then Gil comes over to say good-morning.  He sees the situation, and offers to help out… then comes Tyler H. … and then Michael (aka Kingdomviewbricks).  Soon we had four people doing a speed-build backdrop of a ruined ant-farm wall.  Crisis averted, and friendships built ever stronger…

In fact, if you aren’t helping someone else rebuild/improve their MOC’s at a LEGO Con, then you are really missing the point. I helped at least 5 people myself this year, at least that I can recall.  Sometimes it’s providing those few extra technic pins to snap together display sections (which also repairs your personal relations with a LUG).  Sometimes it’s helping a person rebuild a MOC that was completely obliterated on the trip there (yes, I’m talking about you, Sci-fi Dude).  Sometimes it is helping the displayer you are sharing ½ a table with, who is jamming plates onto his MOC so hard that it topples over your own builds time and again.  Turns out that the guy only had the use of one of his arms due to an accident, so rather than get mad I lent him the two of mine…  If building is fun for you, then there should be no hesitation in helping the people around you build anyway (and no hesitation to accept that help when offered to you).  Dig in!

“Duplo green” is people!

As much as a LEGO Con may seem like it’s about the brick connections, it’s really about the personal connections we make.  That is what you will remember most in the aftermath.  Our ubiquitous friend Simon Liu gets that.  He lives that.  That’s why he is involved in seemingly every sci-fi collab project at BrickWorld, and countless more at other Cons and on Flickr.  That’s also why the green DUPLO of ToroLUG always has such a hive of activity buzzing around it… and like most people there, they will always make room to add one more connection (i.e. you) to the pile…Leg Godt!

(…and shout-outs to all of those people I didn’t call out by name – a person should only do so much name dropping in one article…)