7.09.2004

More LEGO® Fun

I just found this creation in the Blacktron style over at Brickshelf. If you remember Blacktron and loved it, check it out. Turbo-cool.

U, ROBOT

Let me begin this post by declaring the single best toy line in the history of the world: it's Danish for "play well" - LEGO®. No other toy has inspired the same creative spark through so many years.

LEGO® sets are 100% modular, and while they've begun manufacturing specialized pieces for individual sets, those pieces can yet be re-used for other building projects. No other toy company has been as successful at bringing established franchises to the toy market (see Star Wars, Harry Potter), all the while declining to dictate the terms of the story like so many dolls and sets that "play so you don't have to." LEGO® sets require you to provide action, characters, a story.

The new sets have, as I already mentioned, introduced new pieces that seem highly specialized for a specific function: chunks of walls for castles, sails for pirate ships, and components for their "Bionicle" product line. Some folks have complained about these new kinds of pieces, but the truth of the matter is that they still interface with all the other systems. And I've been exploring Brickshelf, arguably the definitive unofficial LEGO® site, and it's made me re-evaluate my position on these special pieces.

Brickshelf is an online archive of pretty much anything LEGO®-related. When I recently acquired several LEGO® sets from a garage sale that had no assembly instructions, voila! - Brickshelf had them archived. I've been able to find scans of old catalogs I had as a kid and find the part numbers to LEGO® sets I've wanted to acquire. Now I can search eBay for "LEGO 6990" and find the Monorail Moon Station, should it be for sale.

One of my favorite parts of the site is My Own Creation, where folks submit photos of what they've built out of LEGO® blocks. One of the more interesting subcategories is the Mecha section, robots folks have built out of various pieces. Some of the detail there is incredible, like this hand, where the digits are constructed of LEGO® mini-figurine arms. Clever, huh?

Anyway, I've decided to investigate the LEGO® catalog and start acquiring the accessory packs, plain ol' bags of pieces. My sister and brother-in-law gave me this unbearably cool Super Battle Droid for my birthday (I know it doesn't look like much in the pictures, but believe me, it's a ridiculously clever construction), and now I've got many pieces that will provide a good foundation for an original robot of my own. All I need to do is keep acquiring joints and braces and other weird little pieces that can be used in completely non-intuitive ways.

7.05.2004

I've been listening to Motown lately, the classic singles from the golden age of pop music.

These songs are the soundtrack of my early childhood, the life I lived in southwestern Minnesota where commercial FM radio did not exist. There, radio was a tool of talk, a medium of conversation and the exchange of ideas. I'm sure there was some method of rigging a radio to a larger antenna to catch a broadcast out of Minneapolis, or maybe Sioux City. Whatever that method might be, my parents did not indulge it.

My most prized possession from that time was their portable 45 record player. They kept it in the closet in my sisters' bedroom downstairs, along with a big box of 45 singles they'd collected as kids. They came of age at the same time as pop music, so these records are a goldmine of "oldies".

The Supremes. Elvis. The Beatles. The Beach Boys. Green Onions, Chantilly Lace, (All I Have To Do Is) Dream. Kind of a Drag. I know them all by heart, after countless hours spent lying on my stomach on the bright blue carpet of my sisters' room, propping my head up with my elbows and hoisting my feet in the air while listening to Diana Ross sing about love. For all of me, I can't imagine any time in my life more innocent. I fell in love with the chocolate baritone of Elvis, and the sweet falsetto harmonies of The Beach Boys. The soundtrack to The Big Chill may be the single best compilation ever released.

So I'm listening to Smokey Robinson croon an angelic "Ooooh" over a delicious, slow guitar lick. The Miracles, especially, have this sound that takes me back twenty years to the Reagan era, when I was a little kid and the biggest problem I had was the occassional carpet sore from spending too much time listening to records. Marvin Gaye is my godfather and The Four Tops are like old friends.

Whenever something big happens in my life, I like to retreat a little and indulge this nostalgia, mine it for a handful of comfort when the storms blow.

Fellas, make sure you hold your woman tight and let her know you love her. If you've got a best friend, go buy him a beer and let him know that you think he's a helluva guy. We've only got so much time together, and it's so sad to fill the empty times with cheap pop.