Ted Talks – “Brickworld 2019: Age of Discovery”

Hey Kentucky! Welcome back to the Manifesto and more importantly to our regular feature Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes shares his wit and wisdom on a wide variety of topics.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

Credit Lia Chan

When I made my very first drive up to Brickworld Chicago in 2016, I thought for sure that it would also be the last time I would ever get to attend a LEGO convention.  Instead, this year’s trip has made it four Brickworlds in a row (and three BrickUniverse Louisville events sandwiched in between). It is a testament to the wonderful, expanding family of builders that I’ve made there that I keep coming back, and to my wonderful and supportive wife who “holds the fort” while I am away. This year’s convention theme was “To the moon, and beyond…”, but for me it was an “Age of Discovery”.  I will be sharing some stories of these discoveries, as well as of the general atmosphere, interactions, and occasional oddities that make the Brickworld experience what it is.

 

Return of the White Brick… Mystery Solved?

I dedicated a lot of my Brickworld 2018 coverage last year to the appearance of the White Bricks.  They made their appearance yet again for the third year in a row.  We were aware of at least 5 that were placed around the display hall this time:

1) Adrian Drake – Fake moon landing, placed by his Tesla roadster

2) Nick Della Mora – Gun of Thrones, placed by his micro games

3) Rob Hendrix – Alcohol train, placed by his actual Malort train

4) Samuel Hatmaker – Infinity Gauntlet with “Oh Snap” tiled inside of the box, placed by his displays in the GayLUG area

5) Daniel Ross – Luke’s X-Wing making the Deathstar trench run, placed by his Millennium Falcon

With a little bit of deductive reasoning (including clues from past White Brick MOC builds), I have been able to determine who is responsible for creating and distributing them. No, I will not be unmasking this person in this or any article. However, if I could place a bet on who I think it is, I wouldn’t hesitate in putting down A LOT of money.

 

So people actually read the Manifesto?

Yes.  People actually read the Manifesto, despite the low hit counts that Keith laments from time to time, and those kids who gave him the stink-eye when he handed out Manifesto swag at Bricks LA.  I noticed quite a few things at Brickworld this year that appeared to have been influenced by my Brickworld 2018 write-up:

  • Reposting of the “White Brick” write-up onto the Brickworld blog – Bryan Bonahoom reached out to me to request a “family friendly” version of the article to post on the website, and I was happy to oblige. It basically meant toning down the description of the “dick with crabs” MOC that rowntRee received.  I also thought I saw a few more non-BW tokens of appreciation being placed on displays around the hall (anyone else see those “Overlooked Innovator” trophies? Perhaps another mystery for us to figure out?…).
  • Back-massages! – At the end of last year’s article I listed a bunch of suggestions, and at the very top of that list was “back massages”. Lo and behold, this year we had a back massage station set up near the front of the hall. I had a hearty laugh when I heard them make that announcement over the PA system.  I knew that I had better get over there, and either pay-up or shut-up.  At the station it was Tammy Eyerly who was the one volunteering her time and skills to work out the muscles in our aching backs, and all donations she received went to charity. Classy.
  • Drunk builds were cancelled – The aftermath of last year’s build(s) was a disaster. My suggestion had been to incorporate a breathalyzer into this unofficial event.  Harsher measures were actually taken.  Even though last year’s “bad drunk” offender didn’t attend this year, the event was cancelled.  The main reason that was given to us was a lack of available rooms.  This was likely true, as there were quite a few other events scheduled at the Renaissance on Saturday night (wedding receptions, etc.).  However, drunken wagon rides around the display hall were still in play during “World of Lights”.
  • The return of Kaleta! – Dave K. had commented last year that my write-up of BW18 and the impending BW changes were enough to get him back to the show, and indeed it was. It was so awesome to see his return, and getting to meet his son Elliot. I really enjoyed the guided tour they gave me of all their alphabet starfighters that they created together, and learning about all their “scoundrel” pilots. Spending that time with them on Sunday was a personal highlight for me.

“El-ee-ot.” Credit Dave Kaleta

At the very end of Brickworld during the Sunday teardown, I also got to meet Kevin Huxhold who is a renowned Bionicle/creature builder.  He probably had the worst ever table location in the hall to display his MOC’s, as it was at the very front corner of the hall where pretty much no one goes… even him, as the people displaying next to him said they hadn’t seen him since set up.  I myself didn’t even realize there were builds being displayed over there until late on Saturday, and he had some amazing creature builds too.  When I did finally see him on Sunday, I went over to introduce myself and he said, “You write stuff for KeithLUG, right?”  Right on, man!  Right on!

 

Skully got Boned

Last year I didn’t get to participate in the game demo of “Clunkers” by 1×5 Games (a.k.a. rowntRee & Flor), so I made it a point to block-out my calendar for the demo this year.  Well, the boys’ demo kinda got hosed.  First they were left off the sponsor slides during the opening ceremony presentation.  Then the demo was scheduled against the Charity Auction show, and then the room name was listed wrong on the display screens that were around the convention center.  Even still, I got to play a cozy round of Clunkers with Heath, Ryan Wilhelm, and a young guy who had played the game last year.  That veteran of the earlier version seemed to really like the changes they made to the game, and I know I am itching to give it another try.  The game is really heading in the right direction, and hopefully it’s a sign of great things ahead for the dynamic duo…  Space Nut Solitaire!

Got Malört? Credit Shane

 

They’re here. They’re queer. Get used to it.

You’d literally have to be living under a rock not to realize that the LGBTQ+ community is well represented within our FOL community. There was a mixer organized for the LGBTQ+ attendees this year, and I heard that they had over 30 people show up.  Some of them were surprised by the amount of representation themselves.  One person who opened the door to the mixer thought he had entered the wrong room when he saw so many people there…  Unfortunately, the people still living under a rock are also represented within the building community.

GayLUG made its debut at Brickworld this year, and they had reserved their own table section in the display hall.  “Coming out” in the display hall also meant putting a target on themselves for whatever small mindedness might be put out on display. Some in GayLUG were worried about this and set up a hidden camera to watch over the displays.  As if on cue, one such small-minded person took it upon themselves to attach a printed 2×4 tile of a TRUMP campaign poster onto one of the GayLUG displayer’s MOCs, and place another one on an adjacent table; a deplorable and cowardly act.  A harsh reminder was put out over the PA system that political statements and vandalism of other people’s displays are grounds for being banned from Brickworld (as it should be).  On the off chance that the small-minded person is reading this, know that your actions have no place in this community.  If that wasn’t clear enough, I hope you finally got a clue when the new owner of Brickworld thanked his husband during the closing ceremonies (assuming that you kicked out already, and were still there for the closing).

Fortunately the vast majority of us in the building community are kind and generous souls (at Brickworld this year, we raised over $28,000 for charity!).  Just prior to Brickworld, I learned that one of the GayLUG displayers couldn’t afford to even split a hotel room with someone, and he was originally planning to sleep in a rental car.  That was something I could not abide, so I got my room switched over to one with two double beds and I had him stay with me.  I learned later that he was considering cancelling his entire trip just before I made the offer to him to stay with me.  It would have been a shame for such an amazing person not to have come.  Getting to know “Wildflower” over the course of these 4 days was another major highlight for me, not only at Brickworld but in my life.  His immense talent is only outdone by his generous and caring soul (one of the main reasons for his current economic situation). The end result was that he left Brickworld with 2 award nominations, and an outpouring of love that this picture of his white brick can attest.

 

World of Lights Walk – “Oh, Balls!”

Heath Flor stood in for rowntRee during the traditional World of Lights “art school girlfriend – art critique walk”.  The clear lighting winner was Brian Williams’ display, whose lighting made the undulating brick surface next to his sea vessel look like actual water.  Adrian Drake’s disco lighting of Deep Space 9 was a close second.  After that, it was all balls.  The Great Ball Contraption was actually using glow-in-the-dark balls this year, and that was a highlight. The lowlight was the glow stick that was inside the inflatable orb that a pack of EmpireLUG guys were holding over their heads, while chanting “BALL! BALL! BALL! BALL! BALL! BALL!” everywhere they went, and videoing it all for YouTube. Glad they saved me the trouble (it’s not posted yet, but I’m sure it will be soon).

 

“Control the Action!”

This year I finally took matters into my own hands to “Control the Awards Action!” by participating in one of Brickworld’s many competitions; The LEGO Derby.  This was the opportunity to exact my revenge on all those parent-assisted winners of the Pinewood Derby races of my youth.  For those not in the know, basically every year at Brickworld (at least the ones I had been to) the Fitzgerald family sweeps all categories of the LEGO Derby (“restrictor plate” and “open”, youth and adult).  This year I had them in my sights and was going to take them on.  Beforehand, I brainstormed with rowntRee on what the best wheel system might be for the “open” class, and he helped me zero in on the LEGO train wheel bogeys.  Then I procured a weighted brick and built a sleek block of ABS to surround it.  Competition day arrived on Thursday… and the Fitzgerald family didn’t; they were a no-show. Per my “Sweep the Leg!” Manifesto article, you can only compete against those who shows up.  The competition ended up being a round-robin race between the 6 cars that did show up for the “Open Class” and my racer won most heats (maybe all of them?).  Now I am the one to beat, and I’m looking forward to defending my title next year!

 

Other Stuff

  • I got award nominations for Best Vignette and Best Original Train (the Intrepid made an encore appearance), and we also got a nomination for Best Group Layout for “Cienasis Rendezvous”. No nomination for me in sea vessel for the Rhapsody (must have been that bulky sail), and in the end no wins for me in the building categories.  The winners in those categories were all worthy though.  No complaints from me, and in my opinion no major nomination oversights as in past years.  Yes, there were still epic builds that got passed over, but it looked like they were still recognized by those other people who were handing out tokens of appreciation.
  • Interestingly, this year they split the awards for Best Train into Best Replica Train and Best Original Train, and added Best Group Train Layout and Best Individual Train Layout. They also gave out two Judge’s Awards, a Best Inclusive Display award, and a “Best in Show” award based on the feedback from the public.  That one went to the Great Ball Contraption, and now it can no longer win that award.  Based on popular demand, next year they will add a best “Constraction Figure” award category.  Barnacle Builders, Rejoice!!!
  • My streak of getting at least one new person to attend Brickworld each year continues. A second-cousin of mine actually lives nearby and is a huge LEGO fan. She hadn’t ever been to the show, and I got to meet her there. My Louisville pal Charley also finally made it to his first major LEGO convention. Hopefully his brain didn’t explode. I should see him at the next Louisville MOC TALK in July and I’m looking forward to hearing all the build the ideas that he brought back home with him.
  • As for those convention questions that I usually get each year, such as “Is he your son?” and “Were you in Ghostbusters?” that streak was finally broken… as was the streak for me hearing the oft uttered phrase “It’s a pod race!!!”

 

Closing Time

The end of Brickworld 2019 also marked the end of an era.  After a run of 13 years, Bryan and Kathy Bonahoom officially turned over the reins of ownership and management of Brickworld to Mark Larson.  It was an emotional moment for all involved.  There may be a few readers out there who have mixed feelings about the transition, or perhaps even one-sided, but you have to show an appreciation to anyone who can create and manage a convention the size and scope of Brickworld Chicago.  It continues to draw in builders in from around the world, and has been the foundation for building a large chunk of the FOL community. It also continues to grow.  Fun fact; the square footage of the display table surfaces this year was equal to the square footage of the entire venue for the first Brickworld.  Impressive.

So with that, I will close out my Brickworld round up for this year.  I’m already looking forward to Brickworld next year, with big collab ideas, a new LEGO Derby car design, and spending time with old friends and making new ones.  Happy trails to you all, until we meet again!

 

Ted Talks – “Brickworld 2018: A Con Odyssey”

Hey Kentucky! Welcome back to the Manifesto and more importantly to our regular feature Ted Talks, where friend of the blog and bon vivant Ted Andes shares his wit and wisdom on a wide variety of topics.  Without further ado, take it away Ted!

2001space-monolith

The monolith

Evolution

In the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey”, a large black slab of extraterrestrial technology is discovered by our presumed hominid ancestors, causing a considerable shift in their evolution and marking the dawn of mankind.  Thousands of years later at Brickworld 2017, another significant discovery was made; a number of “White Brick” monoliths had been placed around the display hall, sometime during the dawn of Sunday morning.  Sure enough, they appeared yet again at Brickworld 2018.  Perhaps they are the harbinger of another shift in our evolution… an evolution in both the LEGO convention experience and in the community of builders at large.

The White Brick

“I think that white brick is really the heart of what we all want the community to be and represent, rather than the manufactured recognition that pretty much all awards have disappointingly come to be.” – Matt rowntRee

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The “White Brick” monoliths are the same size and shape as the red, brick-built trophies given to the winners of each Brickworld awards category.  As with the monoliths in “2001: A Space Odyssey” these “White Bricks” also contain many mysteries.  One of which is that these bricks are actually hollow boxes that contain a surprise MOC inside, many times personalized to the receiver.  So where did they come from? Why did they start showing up?

Since the “White Bricks” closely resemble Brickworld trophies, the easiest explanation for their appearance is to recognize noteworthy displays that had been passed over for a nomination.  If you haven’t attended Brickworld Chicago, the award nominations are doled out in predetermined categories; Best Vehicle, Best Spacecraft, Best Mech, Best Building, etc.  People certainly build MOC’s to purposefully fit them into these categories, while others consider the categories after the fact (and some even make them fit on a lark).

For those people who just want to “build something cool”, many times they don’t know what awards category their builds should go into, if any at all (…and I’m not sure why it is up to the builder to decide that for themselves).  As a result, many epic builds fall through the cracks when it comes to award nominations. They either don’t fit well into any category, get lost in the sheer number of displayers… or perhaps for other reasons?  Like “so-and-so never gets nominated, so let’s throw them a bone this year”, or “so-and-so always gets nominated, so let’s nominate a different builder instead.”  Rather than merit alone determine the nominations, politics and popularity creeps in (there was one such dubious nomination in “Best Spacecraft” this year).  You can play the game, but as you live by the sword, you die by the sword too.

The “White Brick” started appearing last year on such un-nominated builds. In 2017, Andrew Mollmann and Cecilie Fritzvold were two recipients of the “White Bricks”.  Andrew had built a most excellent “Grand Budapest” façade that year.  I’m not sure which of Cecilie’s builds that her white brick was placed in front of (perhaps for her “Goomba”?), but she did have a banner year in 2017.  She had received a Brickworld award nomination for best vignette, and was also part of yet another “Best Group Layout” win for the Eurobricks collective (they won this year too – 3 years in a row!).  She even defeated Chris Maddison in “Iron Builder” earlier that year, which was no small feat.

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Cecilie Fritzvold’s “Goomba” – so what’s in the box?

This year, however, the “White Bricks” weren’t only placed in front of un-nominated builds. Learning who else received them has led to an important discovery regarding their true meaning; The “White Bricks” recognizes those people who make the Brickworld experience special in some way, not only through creating displays but also through meaningful engagement within the community.

One such “White Brick” was given to Victor at Eclipse Graphx.  At first he had thought a customer accidentally left it behind.  When he opened the box, however, he discovered his Eclipse Grafx logo placed inside. Victor has always been a great supporter of the building community.  He definitely stepped up in a major way for us during the speederbike contest, by creating those custom printed tiles that we distributed to worthy participants. Victor receiving a “White Brick” was great recognition and well deserved, and I know receiving it meant a great deal to them.

Our friend Simon Liu received a “White Brick”, although technically it wasn’t actually white.  It had been built using trans-clear and trans-red bricks, and integrated into it was “The Heart of Brickworld”.  There is no doubt that this brick belongs on his shelf.  From my very first Brickworld, and probably from his first, he has set a positive paradigm for others to follow; inclusiveness, generosity, kindness, always build something new and fun, etc..  I was happy that I could extend some of that hospitality back to him prior to Brickworld this year.  Simon was so taken in by the charms of Louisville, KY during his 2017 “Pub Scouting” trip that he made a return trip.  We got the chance to hang out the weekend before Brickworld, along with Alec, Caleb, and Evan who joined him on this year’s “Brickworld or Bust 2018” tour.  I guided them to rockin’ local distilleries, hot-chicken joints, brick stores, escape rooms, and a meet up with John Klapheke too.  Good times.

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Simon Liu: The “Heart” of Brickworld

The rowntRee received one too, with his containing a dick with crabs inside… Wait, what!?! … I haven’t seen any pictures, but maybe I don’t want to. I guess that makes him the “STD of Brickworld”?  On the surface it definitely sounded insulting, but leave it to rowntRee to see the deeper symbolism in all things. He declared it the “Dick of Brickworld” brick and a badge of honor, showing that he doesn’t care about preconceived notions or anyone else’s perceptions. It is recognition that people in the community who “call it like they see it” are a necessity, however bluntly they put it, and he will own it and wear it with pride…  Honestly though, anyone who thinks rowntRee is a dick is way off base (or he’s merely reflecting back what you are projecting). I shared a room with rowntRee this year, upon Keith’s unwavering endorsement, and I concur that the main is worth his weight in gold.

Lords of Acid: Crablouse (lyrics are NSFW, but the beat is a rager… )

Lastly, I myself was honored to receive a “White Brick” placed in front of “The Shadowlands” collaboration.  We didn’t receive a Brickworld award nomination, but I wasn’t really expecting one… although I definitely hoped we would for our contributors’ sakes (I was happy to at least see Barbara Hoel get a nod for Brickworld Master Builder). I simply wanted to put on “one great show” this year, and the “White Brick” was a great recognition for all our efforts, creativity, and innovation…

However, the ever-insightful rowntRee saw that it was actually recognition for much more than that.  Inside the brick-box contained a cool little Portal MOC.  I hadn’t thought that deeply about why that was the MOC inside, but rowntRee saw it as a metaphor to how I opened up the way for so many others to join in on the fun.  It’s true that I could have done a solo layout, but what’s the fun in that?  It’s so much better to “open it up”, to be inclusive, and share in the experience.

SONY DSC

I do strive to recruit at least one new person to Brickworld each year.  In both of my first two Brickworlds I successfully inspired, or convinced, at least one new person to come to their first LEGO con; Christopher Hoffmann and I shared our first in 2016, then it was Jen Spencer last year.  This year I thought I could get Jake RF to cross that threshold, but it was not to be.  But the streak is technically still alive.  Saturday evening an old friend that I used to work with, Jina, happened to be in the area.  Seeing a Facebook I made for the collab, she decided to check it out.  Special thanks to Barbara for providing one of their family’s unused full-registrant badges so that Jina could stick around and walk the floors with me after public hours (and it turns out that she and Barbara are neighbors!).

Those thoughtful touches are what make the “White Bricks” all the more thoughtful and impressive.  You have to look beyond the surface and see the deeper meaning inside of them.  I admit that I was originally a cynic when they first showed up last year, and judged these books by their cover.  I was blind, but now I see … It also makes you wonder how many of them were premeditated (like Victor’s and Simon’s), and how many were created on the spot. For example, was rowntRee always destined to receive the “dick with crabs”, or was it pre-built and looking for a worthy recipient? Looking back at the MOC that Cecilie received in 2017, perhaps that random “ant” wasn’t so random either.  It could be recognizing her quiet unassuming demeanor, yet you can’t help but notice all of the things she ended up dutifully building, carrying a building load 100 times more than expected.  To date, I don’t think the interior MOC’s have ever been repeated… Questions abound…

 So far as I know, the mysterious distributor(s?) has yet to be identified or step forward. Noticing how personalized the “insides” of the bricks were this year to the receiver, is the distributor someone that all of the recipients know?  Is there a “White Brick Illuminati” watching over us?  Being that I’d prefer that the anonymous distributor(s) remain anonymous, these are questions best left unanswered.  The mystery is what makes it even more special (and because if they do get unmasked, the locusts of nomination seekers will certainly descend upon them).

I think non-official trophies like this are the way of the future. We all need to show better appreciation of each other’s creativity and contributions, rather than fall into the self-centered trap of an awards competition. These types of awards also reward creativity and innovation more than those boilerplate, predetermined nomination categories are capable of doing.  To the innovators should go the spoils!

“The Race at Shadowlands”:

 “Damn, this is cool. The concept has come a long way from the butcher paper 2 years ago.” – Christopher Hoffmann

Video by Dennis Price

Indeed the speeder-race concept has come a long way from the butcher paper deserts of the Tech West.  Although my 2016 speederbike rally collaboration was cool, especially having pulled it all together in only single month, I just had to revisit the speeder race concept and set it to motion.

For each of my Brickworld collabs, I try to recruit a new person to join in the fun. It is putting into practice Keith’s boiler plate interview question, “Name 3 builders whom you would like to meet and build with someday”.  It was really awesome to get Barbara Hoel involved this year, with her alien botany, and I am so glad she joined in.  I had learned that she always considered her plant sculptures as “space” creations, so it was serendipity. I also learned some of her techniques in how she lays out her landscaping, which I can now use to hone my aesthetic eye (clusters of odds and creating visual triangles, among other things).

A huge thanks also goes out to all of the other “Orphans & Outliers” who contributed to the project; Dan Church, Gil Glomshire (aka Dennis Deathdog1), and Michael Frost (Kingdomviewbricks) played major roles in bringing this display to life (and Micah Beideman who was on the ready to fill in any last-minute landscaping needs). A huge thanks also goes out to Rowntree, Adam Myers, Noel Peterson, Paul Wolfe, Noah McDonell, Matt De Lanoy, Sean Mayo, and Simon who all helped round out the display with a crowd of fun spectators. Everyone’s efforts and support really turned this display into a crowd favorite.

James Burrows also deserves a huge shout-out. He has a tremendous Jurassic Park themed rollercoaster layout also using the CDX system, and he helped us out EMMENSLY by giving us a ton of pointers in troubleshooting.  It really gave us the confidence that we would get the race track operational.  I learned a TON about getting this system working, and in return I showed how the system could be used in ways that had yet to be explored (or at least publicly).

It was great driving up and back to Brickworld with Dennis too.  Having a great traveling companion always makes the long drive go by so much faster.  Dennis really stepped it up on the Shadowlands collab, and was my right hand man during the entire set up (even during those times when I didn’t know which end of the coaster was up).  Thank you again, sir knight of Glomshire.

Meeting New Faces:

Overall it felt like I really didn’t get to socialize with everyone nearly as much as I had wanted to, due to how much time I spent working on getting the speeder-coaster going (and keeping it running during public hours). It was worth the effort, but I definitely had less time to appreciate everyone else’s creativity than at past Brickworlds.  I didn’t even get to attend any of the sessions.  “Sorry” to all of you that I didn’t get to meet up with or talk with more

That said, I did finally meet quite a few people that I had yet to meet in person.  Notably to readers of the Manifesto I got to meet up  Cameron, our resident “Barnacle” Builder Extraordinaire who delivered quite a few compelling Bionicle articles to us during “Blog or Die!”.  It’s a good thing he was wearing his Manifesto T-shirt during registration so that I could pick him out from the crowd.  His funky chicken even got a nomination for “Best Creature”.  Represent!

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“Do the funky chicken!”

One entirely new face for me was meeting David Slater.  Holy crap, did he build some awesome cars!  His lime green Dodge Charger (or was it a Challenger?) deservedly won for “Best Vehicle”.

I also finally got to meet Shane; I’ve been a big fan of his artwork for some time, and in turn he has been a consistent fan of my builds. He was there for the live demo of “1×5 Games” new strategy game “Clunkers”, and share some of his artwork for a new card game called “Nutpunch!”  If those sound like game names that “rowntRee & Flor” might come up with, you’re absolutely right.

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“Ain’t that a punch in the nuts…”

Improvement ideas and closing thoughts:

In closing, here are just some things that crossed my mind this year…

 “MEDIC!!!” So my lower back was a total disaster after being hunched over the display tables for almost 3 days strait trying to get that coaster working.  I could hardly get any sleep because of it.  I propose that every Con should have an area with those people that give reversed chair back-massages.  I promise that us builders that fall into that over-40 age bracket will pay up, and handsomely.

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Google Images

“MORE (or LESS) BOOZE, STAT!!!” I think a breathalyzer is a necessary addition to any evening of drunken builder activities.  I don’t know the full story, but our good friend Rowntree had to restrain an angry drunk (or at least a badly behaving drunk) that thought “drunk build hopping” was a good idea.  Blood alcohol level thresholds should be set for both “drunk enough” and “too drunk” to participate.  Trust me, passed out and/or puking is no way to spend the aftermath of a drunk build. People pushing themselves towards the thresholds of alcohol poisoning should be discouraged.

“MALÖRT!” … the only needed improvement here is that we need to come up with some Brickworld themed slogans to go along with it:

“MALÖRT! – The rocket fuel that gave birth to Blacktron!”

“MALÖRT! – Tonight is the night you dry hump Captain Marvel!”

“MALÖRT! – Better that chewing on unclean playbrick!”

“MALÖRT! – The real reason why Tyler Halliwell ran away to Scotland!”

“MALÖRT! – Heath made me do it!”

 So that’s a wrap on this Brickworld 2018 wrap-up.  Feel free to chime in with whatever I missed in the comments below, or share your own stories.  Until next time…

“MALÖRT! – It’s like getting a nutpunch to your mouth!!!”

Blog or Die!: Official Contest Results

THANK YOU!

Yes indeed!  Thank you, to everyone who participated in making the Manifesto’s first annual Blog or Die! writing contest a big success, to include the 11 participants, 3 interviewees and everyone who took the time to comment on the entries.  At it’s best, this blog is all about the conversation and you folks made this past month and a half one of the most talkative periods since we opened for business.  Since you know I love the numbers, at the time of this posting the contest generated 4,074 views and a staggering 425 comments.  In the beginning I set an informal, unspoken goal of twenty entries and even though it didn’t seem like we’d hit that mark until the very last day, we even managed to squeak past it.  The quality level was delightfully high, there wasn’t a bad entry in the group and I’m delighted we were able to feature a variety of new voices and topics on the blog.  The only superior outcome would be if some of you stick around in the coming weeks and months and keep delivering the goods that made this contest special  As I’ve said many times over, both publicly and privately to the writers: the Manifesto door is always open for your contributions. I’d like to offer a special salute to Caleb and LettuceBrick who entered all thee categories and everyone who had multiple submissions: Cameron (who had 4!), Aaron, Ted, and Jake.

Let’s get on with it already!  These are your official Blog or Die! results.

Continue reading “Blog or Die!: Official Contest Results”

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!!!

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 “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.

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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.

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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.

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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…)

Fire for Effect:”Give me the prize!”

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

I’m trying to narrow my focus today.  I offer a very narrow thesis and I will endeavor to get straight to it.  But still… go get a beer… or two.  Oh, and before we start, I am curious: How many of you read this blog in the can?  A co-worker (and AFOL) told me that he habitually waits until he is in the can before he reads this blog.  Like he might have time when he isn’t in the can… but he waits until he is (is in the can)… and then he reads it.  I was sort of taken aback… but then I thought about it (yeah… I know.  Of all the things to think about, right?).  Is it a strange thing that only he does?  Or is it actually a new norm that I’m just not clutched into?  So, ummm… are “WE” in the can right now?  You, constant reader… and I?  Together, in the can?  For the record, I don’t read, or write for that matter… in the can.  Ever.  Just so you we’re clear.

Well, I guess that pretty much shot the notion of getting right to the point.  How about catching up by jumping straight to my point!

Thesis: Awards at Lego fests are good for the state of the hobby.

Supporting points:

Competition.  It is a culturally universal concept which, when controlled, can motivate innovation, improvement and excellence.

Limited competition focuses this potential but requires rules.  Rules equate to cooperation.  Obscure rules undermine cooperation.

Transparency prevents obscurity.

Transparency is lacking in Lego conventions.

Let’s get all Aristotelian!

  1. Competition fosters improvement.
  2. Awards are competitive.

ERGO

  1. Awards foster improvement.

Thesis clarification:

Competition.  An environment and an event wherein participants try to get or win something that someone else is also trying to win: to try to be better or more successful than someone or something else (Merriam Webster).   Competition is broader.  It exists in a natural state.  Trash the normal rhetoric about gazelles competing with cheetahs on the savanna.  They don’t compete… they mutually support one another by perusing separate but interrelated agendas.  Remember that it is not the cheetah with whom the gazelle competes, but rather the other gazelles.  The cheetah is relevant to the gazelle… but the cheetah wants neither the limited supply of grass, nor to mate with the limited supply of hot gazelles.  Yes, cheetahs and gazelles run together, at the same place and at the same time…but they are running for DIFFERENT REASONS… running DIFFERENT RACES… often right after dinner for the gazelle, and right before dinner for the cheetah.  But the gazelles all know their race is not against the cheetah.  It is against the next slowest gazelle (the one who the cheetah is going to actually catch).  For the gazelle, it’s all about the grass and the mating (So what you’re saying is… Keith is a Gazelle?).  Getting what the other gazelles want.  That is the competition.  Be a better gazelle, get more grass and more ass.  Competition incentivizes gazelle to be BETTER gazelles.  This is what I mean when I say: Competition fosters improvement.  Take a look at gazelles.  Most of them are pretty good at gazelling.  The not so good gazelles?  They are harder to spot…  Usually busy feeding the cheetahs.

So its clear then.  AFOLs should run across the savanna until we catch one another, and then kill and eat one another (frequently wedging our dead AFOL victim up in a tree to protect the body from other conniving AFOL rivals).  NO!  Don’t be silly!  Most of us would stroke out from the shock to our cardiovascular systems!   Duh!

Here I say only that competition is part of natural life (and yes, I have a bias towards artificial systems that “borrow” from natural systems because nature pretty consistently kicks ass!) and that it fosters improvement.

But there is more to the VALUE of COMPETITION.  It is CULTURALLY UNIVERSAL.  War is competition.  Religion is competition (lots of overlap with war).  Commerce is competition (again, with the overlap).  Exploration, science, agriculture… almost every field of human culture (non-natural) has a competitive aspect.  Yea rowntRee… Art as well.  Further, all these fields overlap and interconnect.  It’s quite a weave actually.  All humans from all cultures do this stuff.  You might even say it’s universal.  Makes for some tough problems.  COMPETITION CAN ALL BE HIGHLY DESTRUCTIVE!   I mean… I started the list with WAR for god’s sake!   Let’s review the concept of LIMITS… Yea?

Limited competition is all the competition that happens within agreed upon parameters.  Sometimes vague, as with underlying cultural assumptions, and sometimes specific, as with… wait for it… rules.  If ANY participant in a limited completion abandons these parameters, these rules… then the competition becomes unlimited again.

Continue reading “Fire for Effect:”Give me the prize!””