Ted Talks: Rock ‘N’ Roll Star

35279813394_8df727feb0_o.jpg

What truly motivates you, constant reader, to build your MOC’s and share them with the masses?  We already know you enjoy building your castles, and trains, and SHIPs (oh my).  You also do it to help your fellow builders with tips, share techniques, and provide positive feedback… for the good of the building community.  What more could anyone ask for, right?  Gee, Wally. How altruistic of you.

C’mon, people… you know, and I know, there is something else stirring underneath the surface…

It starts out as a little burning ember at first.  You’re hooked on getting the MOC views, and now you are yearning for a little more recognition. Fanned by the faves and encouraging comments from other builders, it burns brighter and grows inside you.  Eventually it consumes you, in a raging inferno that craves the FULL ATTENTION of the community!  You’re not looking for mere recognition from your peers anymore.  You’re looking for acclaim!  It is your DESTINY to become one of the “LEGO ROCK STARS”!!!

♪♫ “So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star? / Then listen now to what I say”.♫♪ – The Byrds

Look at me! Blog me! Love me! Name a build technique after me! Put my MOC’s onto trading cards… Hire me to be a designer at LEGO!”

 ♪♫ “Just get a [LEGO set] / then take some time and learn how to play.”♫♪

Well, duh!  Starting out, I think everyone understands that essential step of honing your craft.  It’s a long way to the top, if you want to Rock N’ Roll.  There’s not much else that really needs to be said.  If for some reason you are considering a spiritual training camp with an Indian guru to be further enlightened, let me save you the trouble.  Your meditation mantra is this: “Build my collection… Build some MOC’s… Build my collection… Build some MOC’s…”

33357057533_f0c2e9daa1_o.jpgthereeljames – Ommmmm

♪♫ “And in a week or two if you make the [blogs] / the girls’ll tear you apart”♫♪

If you’re a “LEGO savant”, maybe it does only take you a week or two to get your first blog post.  Typically though, it’s a gradual build up, as your skills and parts collection improve over time… but either way, it has finally happened!!!  You’ve made the “Cover of the Rolling Stone”  and have gotten your first “Top-40 hit”.  The web-traffic and views on your photo page have gone through the roof!!!  …But slow down there, “Stillwater”.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You’re still only a one-hit-wonder and merely “Almost Famous”…

If you start racking up more blog hits, you’ll also start racking up the favorites and the followers too.  At some point those builders that you considered “Rock Star Legends” will actually start following you.  Eventually, you build up enough confidence to go out on the LEGO CON-cert Tour with them.  You’ll play your solo act on stage, and then play in a collaborative jam session for the final encore.  Once the public has gone home, you play late night poker after the show with the roadies, sitting around a DUPLO table and trading your MOC’s for a few cans of “The Brown Note”… Rock N’ Roll, baby!!!

6045417123_fe1d4ea2a8_o.jpgcaptainsmog – On The Stage

Fame can be fleeting though, and new acts are always appearing on the scene.  To stay on the radio play lists, you’ll need to keep “Feeding that Monster!” by churning out those pop song hits.  Building a MOC in a popular licensed theme is a smart choice (Star Wars builds are always perineal chart toppers – the exception being “clones on a plate”)… might I also recommend participating in an Iron Builder contest?

♪♫ “Sell your soul to the company / who are waiting there to sell plastic ware.”♫♪

There are plenty of “LEGO Rock Stars” that reached the pinnacle and cashed in to become TLG “company men” and “company women”.  You’ll notice that they seldom get the time to build/post their own MOC’s anymore.  They don’t even want to build after a full workday of pushing brick-shaped pixels around a monitor screen.  Now they are just another Technic gear in TLG’s “hit making machine”.  They are chained to their desks, creating watered-down “Danish pop songs” that can appeal to everyone, especially to kids ages 8-and-Up, and that fit neatly into a certain market-determined piece-count/price-point.  They’re “getting’ hygee with it”… ♪♫ Happy Happy Joy Joy…♫♪

Stinky Wizzelteats – “I’ll teach you to be happy!…  I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!”.

 Even if you don’t catch the eye of the major TLG Label and become a full-time contract-artist, don’t worry.  You can still get a taste of the action as a one-time guest performer.  Maybe you submit a few LEGO set ideas to CUUSO, IDEAS, or whatever it is that “American Idol” reality show is called these days.  If your idea goes “GOLD”, at least there’s still a modest chance the final design will maintain some modicum of your artistic vision.  But first you’ll need to thoroughly humiliate yourself by pimping for those votes… week… after week… after week….  Once you DO hit ‘GOLD’, and if TLG thinks you’ve handed them a bona fide hit, they’ll start pumping out the plastic.  They’ll even give you a 1% royalty on every record sold!  ONE PERCENT!!!

But that’s not the only way to cash in on your “Rock Star” acclaim.  You can also sign on with an independent label, or create your own. Rather than “selling yourself out” to TLG, you’re trying to sell out of your commissioned MOCs, custom printed figures, trading cards, action wear, etc.   You take your “Don’t Tread On Me” concert T-shirts with you on every stop of the LEGO CON-cert Tour, and then sell them on-line when you get home.  If your fans really like what you do, then surely they will pay up and support you, right?  They know you’ve got bills to pay, and more bricks to buy?  Maybe giving away MOAR free prototypes will entice them? Or maybe you need to find some other way to promote your wares? (…might I recommend sponsoring an Iron Builder contest?)

Pine Barons – Clowns “I am just a clown like you, and we fake smiles for pay…feeling so transparent.”

♪♫ “The money, the fame, and the public acclaim… ”♫♪

Up to this point I’ve been talking about “Rock N’ Roll” stars. They still have to crank out that “rock n’ roll” music that appeases the masses… “FREEBIRD!”  …But then there are the “MEGA STARS” that Leg Godt on a whole different level.  They can build whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.  They are the trend setters (sometimes accidentally) and meme creators (sometimes purposefully).  They have been featured performers in Block-umentaries.  You know of whom I speak.

“Mega Stars” have followers in the thousands (like > 7,500).  Those large numbers have only gotten worse (I mean better) with LEGO being in the mainstream now.  On a bad day, they get 20 more new flickr followers, 15 of which have empty photostreams and those generic flickr camera avatars. On a bad day, they only get 150 favorites on a new MOC that hasn’t even been blogged yet.

"Fried Chicken!" - A tribute to Freddie Mercury

Ochre Jelly and “Fried Chicken!” (yum)

For their ‘fans’, which even include the “Rock Stars”, there is almost no hope of making any deep personal connections with the “Mega Stars” anymore.  Don’t get me wrong.  They aren’t cold hearted elitists.  They just can’t keep up with all the fan mail, let alone all of their fans’ photostreams to reciprocate the love. I wonder if they even fave other people’s MOCs anymore, let alone comment. (Perhaps they need to hire personal assistants – actually, I know that has already happened…. “Hey mom. Can you check my flickr to see if there is anyone I need to respond to while at BW?”).

When you are a “MEGA Star”, you don’t need to connect with everyone on a one-on-one basic anymore.  “We ain’t one-at-a-timin’ here! We’re mass communicatin’!”   Your MOC concerts are filling MEGA-STADIUMS now! You’re headlining ROCK FESTIVALS!  YOU Control The Action!  You have truly arrived.

Orange Stage at LEGO World

♪♫ “The price you paid for your riches and fame, / was it all a strange game? You’re a little insane”♫♪

Jonatha Brooke – “Careful what you wish for…”

There is a price to be paid for being a “Mega Star”.  To avoid the paparazzi, they have to build their own private LEGO Neverland compounds, and only invite the people over who knew them “before they were famous”.  They have to register at LEGO CON-cert hotels under false names too (…psst… I know who you are Mr. Bricky McBrickface).  When they walk through the LEGO CON-cert hall, they overhear jealous comments about their latest hairstyle, and the MOC’s they brought with them (btw – does TLG print the “Law of Jante” in the fine print of every instructions booklet, or something?)

LEGO “Mega Stars” must miss those halcyon days when they were up-and-coming builders, trading critiques on Lugnet and playing the “open-mic night” at the Corner Café.  I can’t fathom what it is TRULY like to be a “Mega Star”, and I’m too lazy to reach out to some of them and ask.  I’m no “Rock Star” myself either; being put onto a trading card just isn’t my goal in life (however, I’m always down for a lunch box lid).  I’m happy simply being an “Almost Famous” kind of builder; doing just enough to be relevant, but not enough to edge over that slippery slope.  Having seen the various endings to this cautionary tale, I don’t aspire to fly much higher.  I have my “Piece of Mind

 

Boston – “Piece of Mind”

Despite dragging my feet, I still net a couple new random flickr followers a week, for God knows why.  I’m at 1,800 flickr followers right now, which is a little insane, and with no hope of ever keeping up with them all…. Speaking of being “a little insane”, aren’t most creative types?  We’re never gonna’ survive unless we get at a little crazy… (…being A LOT crazy is a whole other matter…).

♪♫ “Don’t forget who you are, you’re a rock and roll star!”♫♪

So, where does this chase for “fame and acclaim” lead in the end?  Right back to the same question I asked at the very beginning: “What truly motivates us to build and share with the community?” Why are we doing all this?  To what end?  When our heads start to swell up from the moments of praise, we should probably ask ourselves this question time and again.

If it IS to become a “LEGO Rock Star”, now’s the time in this article for the reality check.  Remember that “Rock Star” status is mainly limited to within our own FOL Universe, and in our own minds.  It’s no more than that juvenile battle in the “LEGO High School” cafeteria to climb the lunch-table pecking order.  I assure you, no one outside of our FOL Universe gives a rat’s ass.  To most outsiders, we’re ALL just bunch of neo-maxi-zoom-dweebi’s, no matter where we are sitting; man-kinder, women-kinder, and sometimes actual kinder, just playing with toys.  That’s right.  They’re toys; we should be out there having fun with them, and playing well with each other.  Why so serious?

Space Cafe

BricksTreasure – Space Cafe

If our personal motivation is to become better builders, then we need to remember that all of these counts of views, faves, and awards are but arbitrary measures.  The means to become better builders comes from continually pushing ourselves to improve, by learning from others who inspire us, seeking out feedback, and not being overly defensive in the face of an occasional critique.  We’ll rise up by helping others rise up with us.  As cliché as it is, in The End, “the love you take is equal to the love you make”…  But don’t just take it from me.  Take it from the Walrus…

Paul McCartney – Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End

“ENCORE!  … ENCORE! … ENCORE! …”

With that, I think this musically themed satire has rambled on long enough.  It’s time for YOU to step up to the mic for the encore, and take over the comments stage.  Bring it on home!  Tell us about your stardom, or just rip on my playlist choices.  If you not a “Rock Star” yet, then you can just give us your best Neil Diamond cover (or whatever it is that your generation listens to these days).  This is your chance to shine!

 

 

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”

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:

User Group Snip.PNG

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.

20170531_223353.jpg

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

SHIPrites Vol 1: The Journey

The Manifesto is proud to present the first installment of a month-long series by friend of the blog and creator of SHIPtember, Simon Liu.

29405927476_53970a719a_o

Hello!

Keith asked me to jump in and write some commentary during this rite of passage for Space builders. I might not be the best SHIPwright, but I know a few things about building ships right.

I already had a series of articles prepared for this month, a semi useful series of guides and discussions on tackling the SHIPBUILDING conundrum, especially in the tight confines that is SHIPtember, so I was very willing to join. But Keith pointed out, that an article about SHIP building is kinda obvious, the standard blog fodder, and he wanted to hear about me, and my stories. The Manifesto , in my eyes, is about story telling, commentary,criticism, and most importantly: meaningful  discussion between builders.

15212189508_35d529c51e_o

Next week, I don’t know what I’m going to talk about, you tell me in the comment section. You control the action. History of SHIPtember? Trends and current happenings? My favorite SHIPtember success/failures? How I probably fucked up SHIPs for the whole community? The lunacy that was battleSHIP?

27287577734_be318e2791_o

The reason why I choose the story of the FK Antrotta is because it’s the truest to what I intended SHIPtember to be.  It’s not my favorite SHIP, nor the one I think is my best. But I followed the purest form of SHIPtember: Fly by the seat of your pants, zero planning building action as controlled by you: the commentators.

I actually feel less that it was ‘my‘ SHIP, but ‘OUR‘ SHIP. I may have physically put the pieces together, but it was a bit of a community effort to lead me to where it ended up to.

I’ve always imagined SHIPtember as a kind of community collab, posting WIPs for feedback and direction of where to go. The first year I had a general plan. Year three I based my SHIP off an image, but year two I had zero planning.

The only thing I did prior to SHIPtember was settle on a colour scheme. Skip back to 2014, and easily my favorite build I saw that year, was Forest King’sKingfisher“.

14842465471_5591e4c7c0_o

Here was a SHIP like none other. Forget the sleek ships of Star Trek, the colourful ships of Homeworld, and the greeble-ladened ships of Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars.

Kingfisher was a beast, it came out of the Bro-LUG cyberpoc ethos in a cacophony of dilapidated paneling. I was actually fortunate enough to witness the primordial sketch that lead to this monstrosity, in a little hotel room on Seattle (now there’s a whole new topic worthy of discussion: the crazy creative concepts that gets thrown around and conceived during or immediately after a convention.)

Suffice it to say the KingFisher left an impression on me, specifically the patches of old gray. I came into to the community with this new bley beauty as the norm, and hoarded the pretty new colour like Nutella. But when I saw how the grey-bleyadients played, I was hooked and vowed my next SHIP would follow suit and I’d order a bunch of old gray.

In fact, I partially named the SHIP after it’s builder, FK = Forest King

But you might be calling bullshit: how could I order parts in a specific colour if I didn’t know what I was building? Half points! I had no clue of what pieces I needed or how much…. so I overcompensated and just ordered a cap ton of plates in 1×4, 1×2 and 1x1s.  It should be noted that this decision on what to order (plates) dictated the final design of the ship to some degree: a lot of different paneling and flat surfaces.

So how to start building a SHIP?

I’ve seen several different approaches to this over the years, and each as their own merits.  For me though, it’ll always be like how the pros do it: start with framing and build out.  It wasn’t until I started writing this article that I realized there actually is a standard methodology of SHIPbuilding: the design spiral:

DesignSpiral1

For a LEGO SHIP the process boils down quickly to: concept, structure, functions and details. There are lots of great resources in the main SHIPyard group on Flickr, just pursue each year’s SHIPtember WIP photos for inspiration and technique. Though this is probably the most useful infomatic on strong frames and here’s a great group with examples of how to add some greeble detail to your ships.

But for the purpose of this diatribe, I’m going to focus on Concept.

Most builders have a concept in mind before SHIPtember, and even post their intended builds in a tantalizing appetizer for what is to come. Some don’t post their concepts at all, instead leaving a breadcrumb of how is that even a SHIP?!?  which ultimately leads to a Hitchcockian twist. For year two, I started with no concept in mind. I treated SHIPtember as a pure month-long free flow’n jam session with my buds. Looking back, I realize it’s the most horrific example of the Agile Software design methodology:Short sprints of work, followed by user feedback and testing, then start another round of development.

I basically did this. Every day was a sprint. I did my building, I posted it and you, the clients, provided invaluable feedback on what worked and what didn’t, some even helping solve technical problems (best clients! ) and I took the feedback and iterated the design.

And that was one of my main goals of this SHIP, to go and iterate. In most cases, my builds are basically a first draft, rarely do I refine the build unless it’s going to be mass-produced or handled by others. The year prior to this build I met the great TardisBlue (Nick Trotta) and just like Forest and the Kingfisher, it had a lasting impact on me. His approach could not have been more diametrically opposed to mine: his typical starfighter building method involved hours spent finding the perfect connection and angle. Then he would iterate and try to build it better. I normally try one thing if it works, great! Move on to the next element. But Nick’s constant refinement is what makes his models so immaculate. While some might think he doesn’t really build fast, or much, I think the opposite is true.  In terms of the number of iterative sprints he must go through, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a monster of productivity.

So based on Nick’s build style, I knew that SHIPtember was probably never going to be something he would be comfortable partaking of, due to the time constraints.  So I stepped in and basically tried to build a SHIP like Nick would… and actively tried to iterate and rebuild sections over and over again incorporating feedback and experimentation.

This cycle of feedback to drive the concept and design worked amazingly well. Yeah I know, I was surprised too.

A good example was this:

15185528142_ee1a4ae3ff_o

It was pointed that I should add something to balance it out, and the black part was neat and I should expand on it. They weren’t sure where, but they suggested more black. As

well the lines were a bit disjointed and pointless …. Okay then!  next update:

15172881436_af683331ae_o

The power of feedback and criticism.

This may not be arguably my best SHIP, but certainly the most refined. The collaborative nature of this build and the multiple cycles of (Build. Present. Gather Feedback. Repeat)  paid off time and time again, as the critical feedback or sometimes even crowd sourcing solutions kept making each iteration that much better.

Which was really one of the tenants of SHIPtember in the first place! I didn’t want another month where people hid and built and unveiled their masterpiece in 30 days. The real drive behind SHIPtember wasn’t the SHIPs.

But the journey.

As we all set upon this journey  (or some have already finished and it’s day 3?!?) I implore you not to forget to live in the moment. This collective creative process is what makes SHIPtember special. So post those WIPs, comment on others, take criticism  to heart and don’t be afraid to change it up.

Because after the journey all you’re left with is just a pile of LEGO pieces: HINKLE SMASH!

Oh, and Antrotta –  Named after Adelle and Nick Trotta, who not only did I try to impersonate, but also had the clutch answer to my striping problem.

Cheers,

S

Fire for Effect: “Brace yourselves, the area of penetration will no doubt be sensitive.”

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

Generalizations.  We love to use them and we chafe when we spot others using them.  We love the notions implied by the noun: AFOL.  I know, it’s actually an acronym… but an acronym is just a type of noun… so shut your grammar-nazi mouth already!  The notion AFOL, what does it suggest?  What do you think about when you hear it?  If you’re reading this text, the odds are that you self-identify as an AFOL.  The acronym suggests that AFOL is a thing.  If it is a thing, then it has traits that describe the thing, right? A denotative description would be a definition.   I’m not about that today, no definition is required.  No list of criteria which when applied to the subject, describe that subject in consistent and accurate detail.  Nope.  Today I’m feeling connotative.  I speak in terms of trends, norms and ambiguous suggestions that are often affiliated with the subject.

Water landing

WARNING!  We are now leaving the realm of absolutes and categoricals!  Variations, or even substantial deltas between my proffered connotations of the term AFOL and your personal traits are to be expected!  This does not indicate a catastrophic cognitive disconnect, or even that a water landing is imminent.   I do ask that you remain focused and keep your seat belt fastened while we pass through this turbulent airspace.   I’m talking about AFOLs as a population and offering some unflattering observations (Duh… Want a pat on the back?  You’ve come to the wrong shop brother!)  I’m not talking about you, or that guy next to you… or even old boy who lives way down town (on the other side of the tracks… yeah, not even that guy).  I’m talking population level generalities… and I challenge you all: Come back at me at the same level.  With counter observations (or arguments even!) that apply to the AFOL as a population.  Remember, if AFOL is a thing, then some generalizations should apply.

So let’s talk generalizations.  Here are TWO generalizations about AFOLs that I am pretty comfortable throwing out there for public consumption.  They may seem contradictory on first examination, but try these generalizations on for size:

AFOLs are sensitive people.

AFOLs are insensitive people.

Both?

Both.

How?

How:

SENSITIVE: AFOLs are quiet, introverted, creative people who persue a hobby that begins with a spark of inspiration and then takes form at a table, or a keyboard.  Usually in their home and often in hours of darkness.  Maybe with some music playing in the background or a favorite movie.  It’s an exercise in two parts: first in creativity and then in sharing.  Communication regarding their MOCs often take place in an on-line context and is often tumultuous and fraught with peril.  They often chafe at negative observations by fellow hobbyists regarding their MOCs, and they thrive on praise.  (STOP!  This is a description, not a value judgement!  Don’t be so sensitive!).  The AFOL is sensitive… to their own feelings.

pimpernel-3504

Continue reading “Fire for Effect: “Brace yourselves, the area of penetration will no doubt be sensitive.””

Fire for Effect: Give Credit its Due

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

It is amazing what you can accomplish…

Harry S Truman did some pretty cool stuff.  He took the wheel during WWII and ended that mess in less than 4 months.  Old “Give ’em hell, Harry” checked the expansion of communism both at home and abroad and at the same time…championed the UN…helped rebuild Europe and the global economy… pulled off the Berlin Air Lift… racially integrated the U.S. military… started NATO… stopped the entire Chinese Army, in Asia, without WMDs (a cool trick in anybody’s book)…got General Douglas MacArthur under control (Almost as big a deal as that thing with the Chinese Army!) and he had a few other pots on the stove.  Somewhere in and amongst all those little distractions, he had time to utter a saying that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it.

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit”

truman_dewey-P

Credit.  Recognition.  Acknowledgment.  One of the sweetest nectars to be found in the garden of AFOL delights, as well as one of its most insidious toxins.

The Desire For Credit (DFC) is a classic motivator.  The idea that our peers will acknowledge our efforts as exemplary.  That some lasting accomplishment will be attributed specifically to us for a very long time.  We long to see our name and our contribution carved into the marble of history next to other reputable guys and their great achievements: Euclid’s Elements, Newton’s Constant, the Van Allen Belt, the Pickard  Picard Maneuver

It’s an attractive notion that speaks directly to our self-worth.  It taps directly into our narcissistic tendencies, a sirens call both irresistible and destructive.  It might even be primal, this desire for the approval of the group.

And like most primitive urges, we often suppress and deny it, like our intense desire to stare at attractive people in public.  Like our deep-seated need to establish dominance in social situations, or our intense need to eat food from Chick Fill’A.  These are all very natural behaviors, and all suppressed (usually with only marginal levels of success).   We get busted checking people out, we get pissed off when slighted in public and we eat the hell out of those damn chicken sandwiches…just like we all know a Cro-Magnon would!  Many of us reject the notion that this desire exists at all, but this denial is of course false.  We want credit for our effort, but WE THINK IT IS BASE to want the credit, so we SAY that we don’t.  Only for a few, a very select few, is this rejection sincere.  In fact, recent satellite images of the Earth suggest that there are precisely FIVE people alive on Earth today who don’t care at all about getting credit for their work.  Oh shit… Mother Teresa is dead?  Make that FOUR people. Then again, even the beloved Mother Theresa had her issues with credit.

This Desire For Credit (DFC) is a pervasive element of the AFOLs life.  Isolating the DFC from everything else, for the purpose of discussion is largely artificial.  Like ethics, safety, respect, faith, trust…and bunch of other stuff…The DFC is part of everything we do.  Maybe a small part, maybe not so small, but it always OVERLAPS with a lot of other topics. A transition sentence is one that helps your reader move to the next concept smoothly (like my thesis for example), but I don’t have a good transition sentence, so…JUMP NOW!

THESIS: The desire for credit (DFC) can both motivate and prevent the artistic growth of AFOLs and the hobby, and acknowledging our DFC allows us to mitigate it’s destructive side.

We can see the impact of credit (or the Desire For Credit) in at least three areas of the hobby: Parts and Techniques, Building Efforts and Disputed Credit.

PARTS and TECHNIQUES.  From time to time, one of us will use a part effectively in a MOC and receive the curt but salutary accolade: “NPU!”  Ah yes…that use of the yellow minifig life jacket to capture the subtle curves of Hasselhoff’s ear lobe…that was quite clever wasn’t it?  You KNEW they would dig it, “But soft!  They speak!… NPU bro!”  Ah yes, time to smile and sip the sweet nectar of credit.  But once per era, one of us, usually the seventh son of a seventh son will use a part to devastating an affect and with such relentless frequency that the part becomes synonymous with that builder!  Or a mind will conceive of and execute a technique… teachable, learnable, re-producible on demand and guaranteed to increase crop yield by thirty percent!  Part and builder, part and technique… bonded forever in AFOL song and lore!   It’s a real hallmark.  No, really, it’s cool.  And chicks dig it too!  In fact, I hear it also reduces home mortgages by a quarter of a percent!  Examples of this rare CREDITUS MAXIMUS include:

Nnenn, a beloved and departed AFOL who brought us this enduring design criteria.  True, the Vic Viper is not called the Nnenn Viper, but the formal and recorded design criteria for the Vic Viper is synonymous with this artist.  His design remains an enduring challenge to our entire community.  Nnenns idea endures, an ongoing dialogue within the community about the tension that will always exist between conformity and creativity.  The below image conveys two messages.  First, Nnenns vital contribution to the greater Lego dialogue: conformity and creativity are NOT mutually exclusive.  Second, all of these MOCs were built by different AFOLs and brought to Brickworld Chicago in 2010 in order to commemorate Nnenns passing.

4723436418_0ca964ab31_o.jpg

The man had IMPACT on AFOLs and the Art of Lego.  He created and shared an idea that resulted in an explosion of creative effort, AFOL improvement, and vigorous dialogue.  I never saw or heard of him chasing credit… but we all know he earned it, and I for one will say without hesitation, that it is a good thing to recognize his contribution (by name).  Not base, not crude, but unambiguously inspiring.  Oh, and his influence is seen at the highest level an AFOL can achieve: Lego product design, as documented so excellently by TBB.  And of course… just to nail down the trifecta in a supernova of CREDITUS MAXIMUS, we all still call this part the Nnenn:

Other examples of CREDIT in the realm of Parts and Techniques include:

The Travis brick: Named for a remarkable AFOL who passed away too soon.

The Lowell sphere: Invented by a man questing for the perfect round cap on the end of the engine thingy on his Y-Wing…

The Bram sphere: As hydrogen warheads followed on the heels of atomic warheads, so the Bram sphere followed on the heels of the Lowell sphere…marvel at the vast and cool intellect of one of our greatest builders.

Reality check: I Can’t KNOW how or even IF the DFC effected the cognitive processes of these esteemed colleagues and I make no such claim.  What I do say is this: most of us would really dig achieving this level of notoriety.  STOP!  Yes you would!  Don’t deny!  Don’t succumb to the notion of what you THINK is more civilized and ignore the savage TRUTH!   Instead, I urge you to make peace with this base motive, acknowledge it and then having befriended it you must learn to tame it and always strive to keep it in check.  Again, I do NOT claim that the DFC motivated these builders.  Creative impulse.  The need to invent the technique in order to achieve some higher level effort.  Accident!  I declare that Keith should interview each of these cats and get their take on the whole business!  (Do it Keith… Do it!)  I’m just saying, it’s pretty cool that they have parts or techniques named after them and if I was ever able to achieve the same,  I would be pretty jazzed about it.  Because I’m base, crude and think like a Neanderthal?  Maybe.  Or maybe just because I have a rather pedestrian world view.

Continue reading “Fire for Effect: Give Credit its Due”

Fire for Effect: Unique is not Special

The Manifesto is proud to present the first installment of a regular column by Michael Rutherford entitled Fire for Effect.  “Fire for Effect” is a military term used by spotters for indirect fire weapons. Examples of indirect fire weapons include cannons and mortars which are usually fired from a position from which the gunners cannot see the target because of terrain. To determine the proper aiming of the weapon, a spotter who can see the target relays basic coordinates to the gunners who then fire a few ranging rounds, allowing the spotter to see how far off target the guns are aimed. This process is sometimes referred to a “zeroing in.” When, by this trial and error procedure, a shot lands on the target, the instruction will be “fire for effect” telling the gun crew that they are on the target, and to fire one or more salvos of several rounds rapidly to blanket the target with the explosive projectiles…or in Rutherford’s case, explosive rhetoric.

27415674714_b0f06b48da_o

Without further preamble, please enjoy Fire for Effect: Unique is not Special.

lego-snowflake AFOL

True or False: Every snowflake is special.

Answer: False.

Every snowflake is not SPECIAL… but rather UNIQUE… and unique is no big deal.

Now get up off your ass and start cataloguing snowflakes.  You will have UNIQUE coming out of your ears in no time.    After you have catalogued say… 15K individual snowflakes… photographed them, weighed them, inventoried their chemical components… you will see that while no two are exactly the same, they do start to fall into large categories pretty quickly.  Eventually, it will occur to you that most snowflakes are in fact… very similar… to many other snowflakes.   And what’s more… only a very small number of snowflakes will really stand out.  Keith… You jacked up your sample.  Go back outside and catalogue 15K more.

SPECIAL… (I looked it up just to be sure) means “BETTER, GREATER, or OTHERWISE DIFFERENT from what is normal.   Yep, DIFERENT is a part of the meaning… but don’t fixate on that small overlap.  BETTER and GREATER are right there up front, and the clause “from what is normal” nails down the ass end of this definition pretty tight.   SPECIAL = BETTER THAN NORMAL.  Embrace this truth now, or leave this essay at once!

Can every snowflake be BETTER and GREATER than the normal snowflake?  No it cannot.  Not mathematically, not empirically, and not operationally.  The assertion that every snowflake is SPECIAL is flat-out WRONG in every way, except from the cultural perspective (AKA the pretend perspective).

“Every snowflake is special” is a very powerful cultural metaphor.  It has its place, and does some good.  At its core, it contains some notions we would all do well to remember.

When applied correctly, the metaphor can re-enforce the notion that every person has some intrinsic worth.  It celebrates the inherent value of being unique.  The unspoken assertion is that this uniqueness is in and of itself a good thing, and that every variation is a potential benefit.   The metaphor is a tool.  But as with so many other valuable tools, like alcohol, duct tape, or spear guns… we seldom apply the metaphor correctly… and it is often used to suggest that every person’s contribution to every endeavor is superior and merits praise.  Perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY, the myth contributes to a culture where CRITICAL FEEDBACK IS DISCOURAGED.  It is a tragic and dangerous self-delusion which often results in such dubious claims such as: Wearing pajamas at Wal-Mart is OK, or “If she is too dumb to see what a catch you are, then it’s her loss” or “Destroying the enemy force before it reaches the capital isn’t the most important thing… it only matters that you tried” This is destructive thinking.  Anybody who wants to do better… Athletic trainers, military commanders, lawyers, sales people and yes … wait for it… artists… They all understand that not every snowflake is special, and that honest critical feedback is essential for enhancing performance.

History, science, mythology, and often our own painful personal experience should tell us all… many snowflakes are not special… in fact, many snowflakes are trampled, defeated, destroyed, outclassed and/or never ever ever have dates on Saturday night.

So whats my point?  Why does this matter?  Am I ever going to connect this crap to our hobby, and will this essay EVER BECOME INTERESTING?  Well I’m glad you asked!  Spoiler: If you’re not interested yet, STOP READING… this essay doesn’t get any better!

55178820

Now, if you would, I need you to re-read the paragraphs above, and every time you see the word snowflake, replace it with the acronym AFOL.  So for example, the first line of text becomes: “True or False: Every AFOL is special.”   I will now subtly introduce my thesis…

THESIS: AFOLs should abandon the SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE metaphor because it retards our individual improvement, and the improvement of Lego as an art form.

Continue reading “Fire for Effect: Unique is not Special”