Fire for Effect: Alas Alas That Great City LUGNET

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

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The planet LUGNET… The Lego User Group Network… The Home World.  Once the undisputed hub of the entire AFOL sector, it was a powerful marketplace of ideas.  Almost 20 years later,  LUGNET hangs invisible from the ceiling of cyberspace… like a gigantic, arthritic bat… hidden from view in the darkness, but still clinging defiantly to life.  A desolate place… its once thronging multitudes are long gone, fled to the promise of a better life in the off-world colonies. Those few who remain on the Home World are merely stewards who live in the ruins, creatures of habit who hold out hope for better times and new track geometries.  The mighty stream of message traffic that once flowed in from every corner of the AFOL sector has now slowed to a trickle of Ones and Zeros… Occasionally, the dusty silence of litter strewn streets is broken by a distant sonic boom, a recon drone swooping down from orbit on a preprogrammed census sweep.

LUGNET was a good thing and nothing like it exists currently.  In its heyday, the site was a communications nexus, a cognitive disco and an atomic snow globe of creativity. Announcements of MOCs were the mainstay, but not the only commodity to be had. Ideas, conversations, debates, arguments, product news and other deliberations were all available in seemingly inexhaustible supply.  And links?  Links a go-go!  Links to LUGs. Links to images.  Links to other more specific groups.  Links to other blogs.  Links to contests.  Links to Keith’s mom…  It was the allure of this perpetual tumult that lured me into my first public utterance as an AFOL.  It was Sunday, the 24th of October, 2004… at exactly 04:14:42 GMT.  The transcript of this first transmission remain in the abandon archives even today!  Prepare yourself, it was both insightful and inspiring.

Rosco,
Nicely put.  Apparently I couldn't handle the dictionary after all.
Mike

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Yet for all this activity, LUGNET was swept from majestic cultural centrality into the margins of the AFOL world in the blink of an eye.  The thronging population crashed… seemingly overnight.  Historians would argue about the cause of LUGNETs collapse… if they cared.  But of course, historians, like most other people, could care less!  But trust me… if they did care… they would argue!

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What happened to LUGNET?

I think the AFOL race should ask itself, and perhaps ask beings from other races, this question.  The answer to the question may be an unpleasant but valuable cautionary tale.

Why is our home world all but dead?

Well for starters… I sure as hell don’t know!  I have deepened and broadened my ignorance by steadfastly refusing to do any serious historical research.  Further, I have carefully cultivated a massive cataract shaped exactly like modern consumer communications systems.  I don’t know an iPhone from a xylophone (Wait wait!  I know… the iPhone is the one you play with little mallets!) On the upside, failing to back your opinion with research means you don’t have to worry about the age-old question: APA or Turabian? So, in the unlikely event that you are STILL reading… know ye this: Every word of this article is based on the subjective opinion of an aging white man!  I’m also pretty sure my world view is mired in the Western tradition… and further tainted by years of work in the service of the state!  Also, my daughter says I’m a misogynist, but she is incorrect… silly girl!  So read on, only at the peril of your plaid wearing, Panini eating, Seattle’s Best drinking, hipster soul!  And get your rebuttal in gear… because I think I’m setting myself up for some rotten tomatoes here… Oh, Shush… here comes my thesis!

My best guess regarding the cause of the great population collapse on LUGNET is three-fold.  First, the rise of the specialized sites.  Second, the triumph of the visual over the verbal. And third, some technical stuff that I can neither comprehend nor articulate… but I’m pretty sure it’s in there some place.

The first horseman arrives.  Behold, the rise of the specialized sites!  And like so many catastrophes, it sounded like a good idea at the time… As I recall, it was the castle community that inadvertently broke the first seal in 2003.  The castle heads were the first sub-community to strike out from the home world, they were the first brave souls to seek a better life on a distant planet, which their wizards had named Classic Castle.

In the interest of clarity, I don’t mean to point an accusing finger here.  I think the castle heads, as a culture, have always been one of the more refined and dignified AFOL sub-cultures.  They embody a sort of renaissance ideal.  They strike a balance between the icy, unblinking technical competence of the Train Heads and the aggressive emotionalism of the Spacers.  The castle heads are a calm, restrained and tolerant people.  They are by and large a friendly lot and enjoy a culture of gentile artisans and hearty drinkers.  Always willing to make room at their table, always ready to laugh (Come to think of it… Castle Heads might actually be Halflings…).  No, my intent here is not to admonish.

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Photo Credit: “Very old Friends” by the always entertaining Pate-keetongu.

Continue reading “Fire for Effect: Alas Alas That Great City LUGNET”

Two for Tuesday: Dan Rubin

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is the only lawyer I know who also has an art degree, proving he may be one of the few who posesses a soul.  Of course I’m talking about long-time crony and member of KeithLUG, Dan “Happy Weasel” Rubin. Dan has quite a long and distinguished Lego fan-resume: he’s a senior contributor TBB, he’s been a multi-term Ambassador, he’s run a prominent forum, he’s been a theme coordinator for a major convention, he’s an OG member of WAMALUG and he’s won multiple convention awards for his building prowess.  I’m sure the list is actually much longer, but those are the highlights.  I’ve had the good fortune to hang out with Dan at three conventions and we’ve collaborated a couple of times over the years.  We’ve also experience the kind of bonding that can only be achieved through the low-budget convention experience.  We crashed on basement floors and shared cramped hotel rooms with very weird fellow Lego nerds, to include one dude who thought it was cool to hang out in the hotel wearing nothing but a pair of tight red booty shorts.  I’m no prude but I am a believer in timing, and being able to judge a room.  They were Kodak moments.  Magic moments.  And Dan was there for more than one night of convention shenanigans and when I think about my early convention experiences, Dan always comes to mind.

Mr. Weasel and I came into the online hobby at roughly the same time, when LUGNET was still the community hub, but the end was near.  We both had our own second tier sci-fi factions, which was the trend du jour back then, following the examples of guys like Sandlin and Giddens who popularized the idea with PCS and 3vil.  Dan’s faction was called the Galactic Inquisition and for our first shot we’ll go back to 2004 and this VTOL gunship called Rapier.  I’m pretty sure Dan was the first builder to come up with the rotary cannon design you see on the nose and it was frequently copied.  I still think those antenna bases on the nose are terrible, but the build still holds up quite well after 12 years.  Those big chunky intakes and engines are a hallmark of Rubin’s style, whether it was built for a faction or not.  Dan was also one of the first sci-fi builders to really embrace the color tan, which was only recently available in any usable variety of parts.  If you like this style, Dan has a great stable of Galactic Inquisition builds, and the Emissary series might also be of interest, just follow the links and immerse yourself in some old school grooves.

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For the second shot, I could have gone with one of the annual BrickFest layouts Dan produces along with his partner in Lego crime, Nick Kappatos.  They collaborate on a large sci-fi diorama each year, with names like “Total Eclipse of the Xenogenetic Heart”, “Faded Giant”, and “Days of Plunder”, while operating under the guise of 3LUG.  There are only two builders in 3LUG, it may seem confusing but the 3 is actually a sideways nut-sack, so it should, in fact, read as “BallsLUG“.  Ultimate I could not choose between 3LUG’s many award-winning dioramas, so instead I went with the bold colors and shapes of the Mephistopheles Courier Service – S36 Lapin.  I think it provides a nice contrast with the Rapier and shows how Dan has developed as a builder.

Once I rediscovered this gem from 2009 in Dan’s photo-stream, I couldn’t resist it.  Again you see the chunky intakes, but it’s the color scheme that gets me every time I look at it.  It’s times like this where Dan’s art background shines through, most people would not combine these colors and they are perfectly blocked.  Dan says the colors were inspired by a pair of sneakers, which is the kind of thing you don’t hear every day.  There are 5 years between the two featured models and you can see that Dan was committed to keep improving right along with the parts selection available to us. That cockpit is so very….Matango!3946350668_fdeee6eca6_o

Mea Culpa, constant reader, I have a nasty habit of fucking with my friends at conventions by hiding their models during public day, and Dan is no exception.  Most builders, understandably, don’t like interacting with the public and they tend to wander off during public hours for meals, conferences, local attractions and the like.  This makes for the perfect time to hide a model and it seems to plant the notion in the builder’s head that the responsible party must be a member of the unwashed masses and not another AFOL…and certainly not Goldman.   In fact, Dan provided the best reaction I’ve ever seen in nearly a decade of pulling the same boilerplate prank, and it really cemented a tradition. So Dan is out to lunch on one of the public day’s for BrickCon 05′ and I swipe a starfighter he was quite proud of and put it in an empty box under the table where my stuff was displayed.  When Dan comes back from lunch he immediately spots the theft and starts looking around in surprise.  That surprise slowly turns to irritation, then sadness and finally anger as he starts pulling over everyone in arms-reach to tell them about the theft.  It was like watching somebody go through the grief process at an accelerated rate.  Then I watch as he goes to convention management to report the theft, and at this point I’m feeling a little bad because I really didn’t set out to waste the time of the convention organizers whose event I was so greatly enjoying, but the guilt didn’t last long.

I let Dan stew for a while, then I borrowed a local builder’s phone and called Rubin, while crouching under my display table.  In my best disguised voice I told him; “If you ever want to see your spaceship again, you better meet me in stall number 3 at 2 o’clock.  Be ready to pay.”  So Rubin rounds up a posse of his buddies (including me) to go and confront the thief in the bathroom.  Rubin’s AFOL sidekick Fradel even kicked in the door for dramatic effect, to find the stall empty.  Originally I planned to leave the ship inside the stall, but too many standard issue Seattle homeless dudes with obvious mental health issues used the main bathroom for a variety of reasons, including eating bread and painting the stall with fecal matter, so I couldn’t bring myself to risk it actually being stolen…or violated.  Instead I produced the ship from my pocket and waited for him to notice.  Fortunately for me, Dan reacted well to the joke and everyone had a good laugh.  While not every case has been as hilarious, it never fails to entertain and I finally got Rutherford this year in Utah.  With his typical focus on his own ego, Rutherford was actually proud that someone took his model, that it indicated a certain level of quality.

You may be asking why I’m divulging my secret and won’t it be more difficult to pull it off nest time?  I wanted to tell the Rubin story and doubt I’ll ever get caught with or without this admission.  In a way, it’s a tribute to our hobby that people just don’t expect their models to be stolen at a convention.  It happens occasionally with small builds and minifigs but they are very much the exception.  And when it does happen, they blame the public, never their fellow builders.

Now…just between us girls, I would never do this kind of thing to a random convention attendee or someone I just met, but anyone else is fair game…especially dudes who dress like this…it’s your legal counsel, Dan Rubin!

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For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.

Dan has a large collection of cool nerd T-shirts I could have picked but I deliberately went for this one.  The reasons should be obvious, it’s a polo shirt…a polo shirt.  The standard uniform of shitty service jobs and golf courses.  I’d rather wear a bowling shirt or a sports jersey than a polo shirt, and that’s saying a lot.  Polo shirts should be collected and destroyed in a polyester fueled bonfire.  I know pink is a perfectly acceptable color for men’s clothing, and it went through a brief fashion trend when it was considered “gangsta”, but this particular porcine hue isn’t doing Dan any favors, it makes his skin look pink.  Dan’s skin isn’t crayon pink, but it looks like it here.  Also, I like a stylish watch, but I can’ really evaluate it fairly from this angle, so no points for that.  Dan looks like he’s dressed for a company lunch at El Torito, on a special “team building” day when the “home office” stooges come in and make everyone nervous.

Dan, burn that shirt, it’s stealing your soul…even when you’re not wearing it.  Do it now!  Even if you decide to keep it, I’m afraid your fate is sealed…now…

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