People of ‘The Pages’: Nick Pascale

Welcome, constant reader to the inaugural entry of a new feature here at the Manifesto called People of ‘The Pages’.  ‘The Pages’ refers to MOCpages of course, that wonderful reservation inhabited by Brickarmz prototype enthusiasts, home-schooled teenage religious zealots and all the lovable disenfranchised dreamers of the Lego dream.  Although I don’t go to MOCpages for the social interaction or creations any longer, the site does offer one redeeming quality that keeps bringing me back for more…the home-page description.  Every MOCpages account has a space for you, the builder, to say a little something about yourself and your approach to the hobby….it’s like the ‘profile‘ feature on Flickr but not so inaccessible and underused.  On MOCpages the home-page description takes center-stage and it has inspired some truly great content over the years.  It is my great pleasure to share that conent with you, just the best of the best.  This series has less to do with building and more to do with finding out just who the hell we are as a tribe.

This feature is inspired by a shitty early 1980’s TV show called Real People, that seemed to be on constantly when I was a kid.  Because there were very few channels to choose from and options were limited, I watched more of this show than was probably healthy.

So with that preamble out of the way, I’m going to kick-start the series with perhaps the ultimate home-page description in all of ‘The Pages’.  I stumbled upon it years ago, quite by accident, during my time blogging for TBB.  Nick Pascale was (and probably still is) a frequent commentator on the Big Blog, rarely would a week go by without a comment or three popping up on various postings.  Never on my posts though…never on mine…which naturally pricked my delicate ego and peaked my interest, prompting me to seek him out in his natural environment.  What I found on ‘The Pages’ nothing short of astonishing….one of the single greatest pieces of writing I’ve yet encountered in the hobby.  In future editions of this regular feature I plan on highlighting key rhetorical segments and discussing them in some detail, but this mother of all home page descriptions is simply too pure…too magnificent…and defintiely too long to attempt a critique with any meaningful fidelity.  Nick covers everything from his biography, frustrations with Lego Ideas, MOC statistics, community spirit, personal Lego achievements, Lego related travels, 9/11, obituaries, a plea for greater MOCpages activity and much much more!  You will be amazed by his use of color and font!  You will be amazed by his spirit and creativity!  Indeed, there is a new member of the great pantheon of AFOLs named Nick (Barrett, Trotta and Dean)  I will leave you to your own conclusions and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts in the comments.  If you have any recommendations for this feature, constant reader, please shoot me a link at your earliest convenience.

 

WELCOME to my LEGO(R) Creations, my VISION and my DREAM

by Nick Pascale

ANNOUNCEMENT
My project based on my MINNIE’S BOWTIQUE here on MOCpages has just been accepted as a LEGO IDEAS PROJECT. As you know I need 10,000 SUPPORTERS! So please visit LEGO IDEAS and lend me your support! If you are not a member you can join for free! there are 5 simple questions to answer and then click SUPPORT and I am there! Thank you for your support in advance! I only posted this yesterday and I already have 1,952 views as of July 12, 2016 12:57 p.m. dst! It’s so frustrating trying to get the needed 10,000 SUPPORT VOTES needed for the LEGO IDEAS TEAM to decide “Should this become a set?” I need your help! Here on MOCpages I have 2,131 views and get this 4k (4,000) views on LEGO IDEAS yet I only have 72 votes I still need 9,928 more! Proud to inform you I now have 173 Supports only 9,827 more to go as of September 9, 2016! Please get to LEGO IDEAS AND JOIN & VOTE! I’ll ask you all once more: Please go to LEGO IDEAS Join, Verify your email and Support, do not forget to click on follow and please leave a comment and mention MOCpages! Minnie’s Bowtique LEGO IDEAS.
And this is the set right here on MOCpages: LEGO MINNIE’S BOWTIQUE

…and how it appears on LEGO IDEAS:

UPDATE: I now have 64 votes of SUPPORT I need 9,936 more votes to reach for the LEGO IDEAS TEAM to consider it! What I do not understand is it has been viewed here by 2,106 people, imagine if each one went and voted for it I’d be that closer and get this on LEGO IDEAS I have 3K views that’s 3,000 views adding the views here and the views there I’d be half way there. Just like in America this is an election year and we always hear YOUR VOTE COUNTS! you can see just how important you as MOCpagers votes for any LEGO IDEAS project is. Today is my birthday – July 26 what a great present to see it reach at least 75 maybe 100 SUPPORT Votes! Thanks!

HAPPY 5TH ANNIVERSARY, Yes, guys and gals I just celebrated 5 years on MOCpages this past January 22nd, where does time go?

NEWS FLASH:

Unfortunately None of my Lego Ideas were accepted!

Continue reading “People of ‘The Pages’: Nick Pascale”

And I know a good chicken when I see one

“Oh, put that thing away, Samurai. We all know what’s going to happen. You’ll swing your sword, I’ll fly away, and probably say something like, “I’ll be back, Samurai!” And then I’ll flutter over the horizon and we probably won’t see each for… about a week. And then we’ll do the same thing again.”

While I could live the rest of my life without seeing another Star Wars or Marvel inspired Lego creation, I just can’t get enough Jack and Aku. Many thanks to Brick Brickolson for adding something new to the woefully short list of good models inspired by the Tartakovsky cartoon.  The builder has managed to capture the essence of the show in a single image, and the face on Aku is one of the best I’ve seen.  The use of the lime-green fenders is fantastic, although I kind of wish the eye-flames shot just a little higher.  It also reminds me of Absurde’s work, and that’s never a bad thing.

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I’m gonna cut this post short and go watch the “Chicken Jack” episode, which happens to be my kids favorite, it’s one of the few things that will get them to look up from their phones.  Karate and general mayhem will no doubt ensue, a perfect distraction for a Saturday morning.  Have a good weekend.

 

Friday Night Fights [Round 16]

*This very special edition of Friday Night Fights has a brief and arguably interesting backstory.  Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that I posted and quickly deleted an entirely different Round 16 match-up earlier today.  Because I’m lazy I didn’t notice a very important detail that gave one entry a huge advantage over it’s adversary.  Constant reader and friend of the blog Zach pointed this advantage out to me in the comments and challenged me to do better, with some obligatory rough language about my mother.  After some entirely urbane and reasonable discourse we decided to go head-to-head this week, his crony against mine, mano-a-mano.  In that spirit….

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another Punch and Judy edition of Friday Night Fights!  This week’s bout will be fought on the unforgiving soil of the angry red planet, with mineral rights and access to the gravity well on the line.  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, under the KeithLUG banner, from Australia where a man is still free to be a man, it’s Shannon “The Savage” Sproule and his “Unity Outpost“.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, under the WACKlug banner, from the bathroom of WACKlug’s coastal tree-fort “Gwendolyn”,  it’s Brendan “The Brawler” Mauro and his “Modular Mars Base“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner before announcing the next bout.

Last week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the Battle of the runway, an erotic cat-fight between Sniper and Stiletto.  In the end, Kosbrick and his “Stiletto Heel“ stomped his way to a 6-2 victory over the hapless Redverse and his “Uslaw Haern the Sharpshooter“.   Kosbrick records his first win and improves his record to (1-0) while Redverse falls to (0-1).

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Let’s Take a Tangent

It’s not too often that the sight of a model will inspire me to bolt to the Legoratory and make a copy for my own satanic purposes, but the next model in the Spotlight has done just that.  From the Technic panel forks, to the turrets, to the radar, this pint-sized death machine called “The Tangent-Class Assault Cruiser” speaks to me…and it says: “We need more ships!  Raise me a mighty navy!  Do it, you bumpkin!”  Oh wait, that was Rutherford shouting at me through the window…I thought it was the boat.  Surprisingly, Tangent is over 5 years old now, and I would have completely missed out if I hadn’t stumbled upon it while searching for a Friday Night Fights match-up.  This kind of discovery is one of the best things about running the Manifesto.

I’m about halfway done and I’m already trying different variants, it’s a fun design to riff on and it is going to be difficult not to add to the fleet.  I don’t think I can give builder Multihawk a greater compliment, thanks for getting me to the table, good sir!

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The only thing that bothers me is the two shades of green, it makes my OCD tingle.  My copy will not have that problem and in fact will not be green at all.  Has any model online or in person inspired you, constant reader, to build your own?  I hope to hear from you in the comments.  Forget indirect inspiration, I’m talking about duplication, with or without mods.

 

 

Constructive Criticism: Gil Shaw in the 25th Century

Welcome back to the Manifesto’s regular feature where I provide a builder with some feedback that is hopefully both entertaining and helpful.  The format is simple: a reader submits a model for evaluation, I come up with at least one good thing about it, at least one bad thing and one random observation that falls outside the first two categories.

Today’s volunteer victim on the rotisserie spit is constant reader and friend of the blog Toradoch (a.k.a. Gil Shaw).  You may remember him from such interesting and popular builds as: Tomahawk MkII, Space Police HQ and the critically acclaimed IP 3000 Hover Response Team.  While I typically review a designated builder’s most recent effort, Gil specifically requested that I apply my critical scalpel to an older model, Ice Base Gamma, from the fall of 2008.  It should be obvious by now that the diorama is my drug of choice, so I was motivated to dive head-first into this deceptively intricate layout.  It may look at first blush like a typical LUGNET.space era offering but there is more here than meets the eye and I hope to convince you that I’m not writing this critique while under that most dangerous of influences…nostalgia.  So get small with me, constant reader and let’s talk about the “Ice Base Gamma“, what went right, what went wrong and which celebrities most closely resemble the builder.

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I like to think that my ability to appreciate and critique Lego models has developed over the years and one thing I’ve learned to admire is playability.  When I first started building and posting I thought playability was for “losers and Canadians” as I once exclaimed on LUGNET to the delight of the crowd.  Although I do enjoy a good swoosh from time to time (I have a soul after all) and I like to push cars round dioramas I was never one for interiors.  I resented the added layer of difficulty and cursed the unfortunate proportions of the minifigs that fucked with scale by turning a mighty-starships into a modest WW2 era diesel submarines.  I also didn’t have kids back then and now that I do have a couple, I find  that  get a lot more enjoyment out of the inside of a model.  All of that is a long way of saying that I love how Gil put just as much (if not more) care and thought into the interior of this mode than the exterior.  The buildings have working doors and coffee machines (a classic of the genre) and science stations and fork-lifts and air tanks and all manner of objects for the minifig employees to interact with.  The moving elevator is the kind of working detail I always want to include but never do and refueling station is the good kind of boilerplate.  This base reminds me of a Lego set in the best possible way.  As I kid I would have killed for something like this and it would have provided hours of play.  And as we know, playtime really is funtime.

Hand in hand with the idea of playability, some of my favorite dioramas are one that convey a process or chain of events.  In this case I love how Gil shows how a cargo container is brought in on a ship, unloaded with a futuristic forklift and placed inside the building in a storage bay.  It’s not glamorous or violent or sexy in a conventional sense but it’s a great way of showing off the features of the diorama in a way that makes logical sense.  I wish more builders would consider this kind of approach, I find it to be much more engaging when looking through dozens of photos and it forces you to catch details that might otherwise be lost.  Since this paragraph is a little terse I’ll also throw in some love for the buildings here.  This isn’t the time or place (a frozen hell-hole) to be getting clever with fancy architecture or overbuilt, byzantine art installations, this is a place where utility is king.  Gil manages to respect that notion while simultaneously giving the viewer something interesting to look at.  I love the gently sloping shape and the dimple roofing.  It would have been easy to do too much here and I admire Gil’s restraint.

I also enjoyed two of the three vehicles, the land rover and the little VTOL fighter.  While Gil may be a crony of the highest order, I’m not going to sit here in my avocado-colored barcalounger and try to convince you these are state-of-the-art, Nick-Trotta obsessive builds, because obviously they are not.  This is mostly studs-up construction with a very conservative approach to the building, but it’s also almost a decade old and I think it’s important to keep that in mind while looking at them.  I may be rightfully accuse of having my nostalgic glasses on here but when I hit the scene this style was the big noise and part of me will always think it’s cool.  The use of a consistent color scheme on all three vehicles is great and really ties into the building well, they look like they belong to the same company/organization that operates the base.  The little fighter is delightful and I would very much enjoy a good low swoosh over the rooftops, and I also really dig the tie-downs Gil uses on the pad to protect it from the harsh arctic winds.  The turned-down wingtips and the double tails are a classic look, well executed on a small model.  The ground-vehicle is fun too, I like the offset cab, fat tires and ambiguous techno-thingies in the back.  I think Gil might have missed an opportunity to have the hauler capable of carrying the previously mentioned blue container, like he did with his classic Kyphon Cargo Outpost, but it doesn’t diminish my appreciation of the model.  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time out of the gate and I think these vehicles are a nice accent to the project and provide value without overwhelming the model or fucking with the scale.

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I feel compelled to admit that I never have understood the appeal or utility of the beloved, classic Crater Plate from 1979.  Although I’ve managed to accumulate a half-dozen of them over the years I find them surprisingly difficult to use and I can’t recall seeing a single model over the years that used them effectively or memorably.  Because of their regularity even using them for microscale has limited appeal. In this particular case I find that they manage to clash in terms of scale and style when compared to the brick-built rock formation that forms the foundation of the large landing pad.  The shape of the crater plates are just unlike anything else LEGO manufactures and I find their presence here jarring although Gil did a nice job socking them in with angled plates.  I’m not really a fan of the scratch-built topography either, the technique is your typical rock-vomit boilerplate…competently built, but there just isn’t enough of it to make it seem natural to the environment.  It looks like an odd hollow fence made out of rocks.  Perhaps if the entire base was on a hilltop constructed with the same technique I’d like it better, it might allow for some interesting elevation changes and separate levels of action, but as it stands  the combination of the molded crater plates and the sloping rock leaves me colder than a pimp’s heart.

I’m not a big fan of the cargo ship on the large landing pad, which is a bummer because it feels like the most important of the group.  From the jump it doesn’t jibe with my somewhat arbitrary idea of what I think a cargo ship should look like.  This thinkg looks more like a scout ship or a fighter or some kind of pleasure-craft, it’s almost too pretty to be a cargo hauler.  If it were pretty…which it’s not.  Where the other vehicles come across as clean if perhaps spartan in design, this one appears low-resolution and simplistic.  Specifically the relatively large expanse of studs on the red plates of the wings draws my eye in a bad way.  I don’t mind an exposed stud or two and Gil manages to capture that magic and elusive ratio of studs to smooth on the other two vehicles just fine.  I also don’t like the way the blue cargo module sticks so far off the back unprotected.  It looks back-heavy like it might topple the ship in inclement weather or easily come dislodged.  The shape recalls the kick ass Raptor from the Battlestar Galactica reboot, but it seems underdeveloped here like it needed another nose-to-engine layer of detail.  It also reminds me of an official Lego set in it’s sort of generic, in the box thinking.  What the diorama needed was AC/DC to play on it’s biggest landing pad, not Dokken.  To wrap it up, the wings are too stubby, the engines are too small and the canopy is too easy.  You might say I question this ships very heritage.

This falls pretty obviously in the realm of the nit-picky, but the secondary landing pad, for the vehicle that I do like, is way too close to the building.  I understand that in the future the technology in these crazy machines will allow for more precision landings that are possible now, but man there is exactly zero margin for error here.  Once wrong move and an inexperienced pilot could take out a quarter of the base.  This place is supposed to be situated on the windswept, ice-encrusted frontier right?  Why would your risk all the effort it took to establish the base with a such a dangerous landing pad?  To make matters worse, the surface isn’t even flat, the pilot has to put that bitch down in what amounts to a cradle.  Yes I fully realize nobody cares about that kind of stuff, and it’s the future so anything goes, but a little separation might have been nice, and a larger surface area on the pad for minifigs to get into shenanigans.

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I’m not going to knock Old Gil for his presentation techniques for the long-shots of the base, I’m not here to offer constructive criticism on anything except the build itself.  Not everyone has the time/bricks/mental instability to have a Lego-pure image, and not everyone has the time/skill/motivation to Photoshop their stuff either.  With the irregular shape I imagine it would be a bit of a nightmare to process for anyone that didn’t like the process of photo-editing to begin with.  So I don’t hold any of that against the builder, although I think it is incumbent upon me to mention the chains…they brings an unexpected BDSM vibe to the model that you just don’t see every day.  I was tempted to chastise Gil to keep his fetishes to himself but I’m always going on about mecha-feet so that seemed hypocritical.  What I will recommend to Gil or anyone else who is challenged by presenting a large diorama is to photograph the model against a painted wall.  I know not everyone has that luxury or circumstance but the technique served me well over the years, because bed sheets or paper always look distracting.  No matter how well you iron the sheets there are folds and wrinkles and it’ difficult to find a single sheet of paper in the right size and even then it can develop little dimples or scratches that are distracting.  For some idiotic reason that still escapes me I started off with a color called Stinger Yellow, but I think the Gunsmoke Blue I switched to later looked much better.  The current specifics of my Legoratory don’t allow for me to use this technique any longer, and it’s a shame because it’s low-cost, low-tech and usually yields good results.

One more thing…whenever I think of this long-time crony, my thoughts often turn to TV’s Gil Gerard and Robert Shaw, because Gil Shaw is like a hybrid of these two master thespians.  He possesses the luxurious chest hair and fashion swagger of Gil Gerard, paired with the understated gravitas and barely restrained violence of Robert Shaw.

So the bottom line is that I dig this retro-space base and I’d love to spend an hour with a beer and some minifigs to really explore it’s nooks and crannies.

I will close with this boilerplate reminder…if you’d like to have one of your models get the (good/bad/whatever) treatment, just sign up in the comments below.  I have a builder slated for the next edition of Constructive Criticism, but the subsequent slots are wide open.

Friday Night Fights [Round 15]

Welcome back fight fans, to Sin City Nevada for another ankle-snapping edition of Friday Night Fights!  This week’s bout is all about style, it’s a take-no-prisoners cat-fight for runway supremacy…  Without further preamble, let’s go to the tale of the tape.

Fighting out of the red corner, from scenic Jakarta, Indonesia, it’s Kosbrick and his “Stiletto Heel“.

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And fighting out of the blue corner, from the mean streets of Moscow,  it’s Redverse and his “Uslaw Haern the Sharpshooter“.

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As usual, constant reader, you are tasked with deciding the outcome of this pugilistic endeavor and determine who will receive a week’s worth of bragging rights.  Simply leave a comment below and vote for the model that best suits your individual taste. I will tally up the votes next Friday and declare a winner before announcing the next bout.

Last week, on Friday Night Fights….

It was the Battle of the Backyard, as minifig Stormtroopers tried desperately to shoot each other from a distance of 10 paces.   In the end, true to form, neither combatant could hit the target and the judges scored the bout a draw (7-7).  There has never been a draw in the long and illustrious history of Friday Night Fights so an official ruling was required from the KeithLUG Home Office.   And the winner is…you the constant reader, because both entries have been given a loss and neither photo will be featured in this post.  Enjoy this week’s match!

Fire for Effect: The Brick Schoolhouse, a Proof of Concept.

This is the sixth salvo in Michael Rutherford’s regular column, Fire for Effect. Take it away Mike…

I thought I would try something slightly different with this installment of FFE, it’s a radical new approach I have decided to call: “Not complaining.”  It’s a highly experimental technique for me, and frankly… I’m feeling a little uncertain about the whole approach.  Basically, instead of railing on about some great evil, I am going to try to frame my thoughts in the form of a specific and entirely positive recommendation.  I know, I know… it sounds pretty bohemian to me as well, but we will see how it works.  Failure is often the wage of experimentation… so let’s take a deep breath.  Positive.  Thinking positive… things.  Focusing my chakra.  Radiant… stuff… flowing like… glowing and growing radiant… stuff… our minds are merging… now together, even as we are also apart…

Nope, I can’t do it.  I can’t be all positive and growthy.  Just focus, read, and send counter fire.

Thesis:

Many of us should start a Lego User Group (LUG).

Thesis clarification:

A LUG?  Is that like a Lego Club?  Why would you call it a LUG?  What the hell kind of name is that?  Well, the bottom line up front is that: Yep, a LUG is the same as a Lego Club.  But there is a reason we call our clubs “user groups” and not simply “Clubs”.  Remember in the last FFE I mentioned the long and storied history of the tribes of the AFOL and the TECHY?  The term “User Group” is a linguistic artifact of our shared proto-cultures.  Check out this definition of “User Group” from PC Magazine:

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The language of our brother tribe is with us even today…

LUGs enhance the Lego hobby in a number of ways.  LUGs are multifaceted social constructs that can be tailored to enhance Lego as it is used and experienced by any specific demographic, or even multiple demographics.  LUGs can be “on-line” or real world, or both.  LUGs can be based on a theme, or many themes.  LUGs can be socially focused, build focused, display focused… or as is usually the case, LUGs can be based on a blend of several foci.  Further, these foci can change with the will of its members!  Age, gender, income bracket, geography, culture and language… any variable imaginable that can be a reason NOT TO INCLUDE somebody in a LUG… can just as easily become a reason TO INCLUDE somebody in a LUG.  A LUGs function and purpose is totally arbitrary.  We control all of that action… and that makes the LUG an excellent “Swiss Army Knife” within the hobby.  It’s an infinitely adaptable tool for getting people to experience Lego in myriad mo-bettah ways.

But, many of us don’t take the idea of starting a LUG seriously.  We believe it requires vast resources, or great expertise.  We believe it’s an unsupportable burden in terms of time.  We believe that by starting a LUG, we are exposing ourselves to mockery, scorn, and rejection.  We are more likely to wish there was a good LUG in our area than we are likely to start a good LUG in our area.   These beliefs are mostly incorrect, and we should discard them (hope you don’t feel judged!).

Further, being in a LUG already is not in and of itself, a reason NOT to start a LUG.  Yeah, sure… it might be easer (or even smarter) to combine your LUG agenda with that of a pre-existing LUG… but sometimes, agendas are simply incompatible.  I checked The U.N. Charter… and there is NO prohibition against being in more than one LUG at a time!

Finally, remember this: If you start a LUG, and it doesn’t work out well… then you can end it!  It’s experimentation man!  Just go for it!  It’s a good thing to try, and it’s not a difficult thing to shut down.  It’s just a LUG, not a nuclear weapons program!

Assumptions:

  1. More people using Lego is better for the hobby.
  2. Many people will not use or enjoy Lego as much in isolation as they will in groups.
  3. People who DO excel in solitary Lego operations, will often benefit from LUG membership in ancillary realms (social contact, networking, developing communication skills, service to others).
  4. LUG membership benefits not only the individual… but also benefits other LUG members (synergy).
  5. There is no OPTIMAL LUG formula.
  6. You control the action!

Wandering dissertation:

About 6 years ago, I arrived at a juncture in my career where I knew I would be engaged in low intensity work for a whole year.  This means I knew that I could realistically expect to work from 08:00AM until about 4:00PM daily, and that I would have most weekends free and clear. In my job, that’s a rare thing.  I had most of a basement at my disposal, and 12 months of geographic stability.  I decided to do two things.  The first was to build a big diorama and take it to the convention in Chicago.  The second thing was to start a LUG.

The decision to build a big dio was easy.  That’s what I want to be doing all the time!  So when there is time… it’s what I start to do.  Like a plant bending towards sunlight.  But that second thing… the LUG?  That idea crept up on me like a cautious predator.  Slowly picking its way around obstacles, moving farther and faster with each step, gaining strength and momentum before lunging, and driving me to act.  Start a LUG?  Are you nuts?  I can’t.  No experience!  No knowledge!   A LUG?  That’s just crazy talk!

Shortly after our family moved into our new home, a teacher from the local school district approached me and asked if I would be interested in running a “Lego Club” as an afterschool activity each Friday afternoon.  I thought it might be cool.  I thought she was asking me to assist in a school activity.  Like a volunteer assistant.  I pictured a room full of boisterous 3rd through 6th grade boys, building airplanes and space ships… talking about violence in its many delightful and entertaining forms.  Yeah. Maybe I could do that for a year.  Why not?

Then the teacher said there was no Lego Club in place, and no bylaws or regulations about school clubs.

Then she said it had to include boys and girls.  (Yeah… that’s only fair.  Besides how many girls want to play with Lego after school?)

Then she said it had to include ages K through 6. (What?  In ONE club?  A kindergartener girl sitting next to a 6th grade boy… and two of them sharing some kind of structured agenda?  Happily?  Unlikely.)

Then she said the school had no Lego.  (Uhhhh… well… we kind of need those for the… Lego Club… don’t we?)

Then she said no teachers would be available to assist. (This just keeps getting better and better)

But… I could have 3 hours every Friday afternoon in the school.

And… a broom closet to store the Lego in… and the door had a working lock!

And…  I could structure the activity any way I wanted (Ah… well at least I could control the action!)

And… That was pretty much the deal.  Nothing more to add.

I asked her if I was going to be allowed to hang out in the teachers’ lounge, because those forbidden rooms had always fascinated me as a child.  She just blinked at me, her immobile half-smile failing to mask her sudden apprehension.   Pinhead.

So… being the master of my world… being a highly trained and professional leader… being a world traveler and a paragon of modern masculine authority…  I did what any man would do in that situation.  I asked my wife for permission.  Did I say any man? I meant any HONEST man. (Just stop.  If you don’t ask your spouse for permission to do stuff, it’s because you aint married…or you’re simply lying!) And she said OK… and then I asked if she would also help me… and she said OK again!  But then I really needed to earn some cool points, so I went and cut the grass or something.

At any rate…we listed the problems we had to solve.

  1. Lego! The club didn’t have any, and I was damned if I was giving away my own!  You know the deal… Lego = Money.
  2. Age gap. Kindergarteners and 6th graders don’t generally play and learn together.  In life they do.  On holidays they do.  At family events they do… but not in a school Lego Club they don’t!  Except of course… now they will… right?
  3. How many laws can you break on accident in three hours? The School had NOTHING in writing for me.  NOTHING.  My employer would call this “Un-plan” approach a “non-starter”.
  4. What the hell were we ever trying to do with this club?  I wasn’t interested in providing 3 hours of free babysitting every Friday afternoon!  I have naps to take!  Chores to ignore!  TV shows to binge watch with my kids! Beers to drink!  A dio to build for the Chicago convention!  Come on folks!  Sometimes I’m doing two or three of these things at once!

After listing the challenges, we began to knock them over, one at a time.

First, MISSION.  In typical government style thinking… I started with the last item first.  MISSION.  Mission statements get a bad rap.  I get it… we have all learned to HATE mission statements because most of them suck!  My employer uses a simple format.  It’s tested, proven, and it has only five parts… which is especially good for me because it corresponds with the number of fingers on my left hand!  So I can count them off as I go.  It’s so convenient!  We will look at the MISSION STATEMENT in a second.  Suffice it to say, you shouldn’t just make it up.  You gotta work up to it.

Get over the years of shitty mission statements we have heard… Get past the STUPID crap about Burger Kings “Mission” to provide you with the best dining experience possible at a price you can afford.  Instead, ponder this: If you are not CLEAR on WHAT you’re doing… you will probably fail to DO it.

Form follows function.  Remember from the assumptions I listed above, I don’t think there is an optimal LUG formula.  You make the LUG fit your needs. What was this clubs function?  Kids were supposed to meet for various after school activities for enrichment.  Enrichment.  Huh.  Beyond that… my new favorite school teacher couldn’t tell me anything.  For my part, I just wanted to learn about LUGs.  For me, the best way to learn is by doing.  But again, what is the LUGs function, and… again, form follows function!

So, with ZERO input from the school, I decided any LUG involving kids had to:

  1. Be safe.
  2. Be fair.
  3. Be fun.
  4. Be consistent.
  5. Introduce new topics to kids, and then to explore those topics (this is enrichment I guess):
    1. Civil behavior. Respect and disrespect. Rules of engagement.
    2. Social organization. Collective and individual systems.
    3. Decision making and leadership. Participatory and autocratic options.
    4. Markets/jobs. Income. Trading. Sharing.   Saving.  Poverty.  Wealth.
    5. Roles.  Club offices.  Expectations.
  6. Be transferable to (to the next sucker who said: Yeah… I guess I could do that).
  7. Be enduring. A good enough idea that it would be continued after my departure.

Not the LUG you are looking for?  Well duh!  Form follows function right?  Unless you were a K through 6th grade kid attending this exact school, it wasn’t crafted for you.  It was crafted for little kids!  Custom built to fit the needs I was facing.  Lots of kids, lots of ages and lots of interests.  I needed a format that would keep a room full of sugar fueled high-efficiency CPUs humming for three hours straight!  Want to keep kids focused?  Challenge them.  To me, that meant direct engagement and structure.  A bunch of K through 6 kids, fighting over a bucket of bricks while a worn out copy of Dora the Explorer plays on a loop for three hours… aint it.

I wanted the LUG to be educational in focus.  In the best of all worlds, it would merely amplify stuff kids are already exposed to in class… but of course in my world (here in the U.S. of A) none of that stuff is taught at K through 6, so I was going to be introducing the concepts.  Either way, my LUG was just a vehicle, a means to an end.  Increasing the kids building skills and enjoyment of Lego was just an inevitable and excellent side effect of “enrichment.”  I went with this format because I figured parents and the school would respond better to that notion: A LUG as a classroom.  (Foot note: As it turned out, most parents didn’t give a damn!  They just wanted the three hours of babysitting!  And the school?  They were beyond disinterested… they were oblivious!).

Oh, and I thought I better think of a clever name.  Maybe something with the word brick… or school.    So I called it: The Brick Schoolhouse.  Very abstract, I know.

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Continue reading “Fire for Effect: The Brick Schoolhouse, a Proof of Concept.”