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!