13 August 2010

Like a House of Cards...

Wifi Fail! The internet was spotty at best in the DEC, which put the kibosh on the Live Blogging experiment relatively quickly. Add in the fact that, aside from covering the event I wanted to experience the event and had a few events to run (seminar and Parts Draft), and the weekend slipped by so quickly.

Work began to catch up with me (two vacation days), plus the fact I'm trying to make progress on my masters thesis. So I'll be Dead Blogging the event, with some recap posts in the next week or two. Then I'll begin transitioning this blog over to a sporadic blog about LEGO, highlighting interesting creations and commenting on the ubiquitous community infighting that constantly seems to plague AFOLs. Think Twee Affect (possibly the most truthful and fruitful LEGO blog in the intertubes, IMHO) only with a bit less vulgarity, a little more focus on creations and a little less strident.

07 August 2010

No Sale Photos and Speed Build Rumors

First, the camera went dead as I pulled it out at Tysons Center Mall last night, so no photos of the store sale. Rest assured, it was an enjoyable time and everyone had a chance at something nice, regardless of place in line. The last customer out the door in the first round STILL ended up buying a Death Star, so the store's stock was managed well. Bravo LEGO!

Second, there is a rumor running around the 'Fair that Steve Witt will be using the newly unveiled Tower Bridge for tonight's speed build. We MIGHT get a good look at the parts and contents. Stay tuned!

06 August 2010

Friday's Festivities!

Justin and Jessica Rupp speak to a CBS Sunday Morning reporter about their LEGO Chuppah during Friday's setup time.

Friday has come and gone already, and most of the particpants here at Brickfair are gearing up to head to Tysons Corner Mall for the annual "Running of the Bulls," store sale event. The convention hall is now quiet, but today was humming with last minute setup and MOC tweaking. Mosaics appeared today, and some were quite impressive, including collaborative builds from St. John's Lutheran Church in Sudbury, Connecticut. They've documented the project in a video on YouTube.

Jamie Berard gave an excellent presentation spotlighting the design process that LEGO undertakes in cranking out sets for retail. He displayed white model mock-ups of a number of creator sets. The white mockups are used to help designers and focus groups hone in on design elements and structure, rather than focusing on color aesthetics. Jamie also unveiled 10214 Tower Bridge to the attendees, and showed a sealed box, stating that Steve Witt had plans for it later.

Speaking of Steve Witt, the Lego North American Community Relations Coordinator led a Q&A session with a healthy number of die-hard fans. After dispatching the typical questions about color changes and not being able to speak about upcoming product releases, Witt got into meatier topics. He DID confirm that LEGO will be producing sets next year for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean 4, but couldn't do much more than confirm the Comic Con rumors. See the previous post for a complete rundown of Steve's comments.

Finally, a reporter from CBS Sunday Morning and his camera crew were trawling around the Expo Center today, filming interview spots with various AFOLs. Among those interviewed were Justin and Jessica Rupp, about their LEGO Chuppah. The pair built the wedding canopy for their ceremony this past year, and brought it along for the 'Fair for display. Watch CBS Sunday Morning in the coming weeks for the complete main-stream media coverage of the event (!).

Alright, now it's time for ME to get ready for Running of the Bulls and wind down from an eventful day. Check the Flickr stream late tonight or early tomorrow for photo coverage of this year's store event.

Steve Witt's Q&A

Sitting at Steve Witt's Q&A Now, watch this space in a few minutes for updates...

(5:58pm) - Steve is introducing himself and other LEGO employees here this weekend.

(6:00pm) - Steve is dealing with the baselines now (color change, 9V, Monorail, Retail locations)

(6:02pm) - Q: Collectibles Series 1 returning? A: NO! Single production run.

(6:03pm) - Q: Will there be more stock of Series 2 than 1? Will there be more in series 3? A: We are still adjusting, most likely more stock by series 4?

(6:03pm) - Q: Pirates? A- We are doing Pirates 4 and it will be coming out next year. That's all I can say.

(6:04pm) - Q: Studded beams returning? A - We won't be returning to the entire system within Technic; the reason that Technic will not include studded beams is to help clerify the system.

(6:06pm) - Q: Has TLG been looking at collectible minifigs as pilots for themes? A - Tough to tell because they sold out in two weeks?

(6:06pm) - Q: Is Hero Factory a continuation of Bionicle? A - Separate theme.

(6:07pm) - Q: Will collectible minifig accessories trickle into playsystems? A - The intention is to make the acessories exclusive.

(6:08pm) - Q: The Star Wars license ends soon, will you re-up? A - Of course. The license is up for renegotiation, but it won't be ended.

(6:10pm) - Q: Will Hero Factory have chapter 2? A - Only if it is successful.

(6:10pm) - Q: Could you release Classic Space sets / Legends? A - Legends have never sold well. Discontinued elements have been a stumbling block in terms of high costs and mold reactivation. That doesn't answer your question, because I'm not going to answer it.

(6:12pm) - Q: How many set designers are there? A - 100. But they work Jamie 10x harder.

(6:12pm) - Q: Advent calendar? A - As far as Steve knows, Castle advent calendars will be available in the US and Europe.

(6:13pm) - Q: Purple? A - Purple is very difficult to color match, because of people's vision. Unless purple is absolutely necessary for the sake of an IP license, we don't want to build in purple in a solid block because of quality complaints.

(6:14pm) - Q: Does LEGO steal ideas from Club Contests or Catalogue Contests? A - No, that's not how it's used. We use the entries for the contest, then destroy them afterwards. We don't accept ideas unless you sign a legal waiver. These contests are intended for fan enrichment and not stealing ideas.

(6:15pm) - Q: Future of LugBulk in USA? A - It will continue. We want to expand it, but right now it is a manpower issue.

(6:16pm) - Q: Status of Belville? A - Active, still for sale. Less distribution in the US>

(6:17pm) - Q: Pnuematics? A - Power functions is the core. Don't know much about them.

(6:17pm) - Q: How actively is LEGO attacking Megablocks? A - We are always trying to protect our IP. We aren't actively going after them. I am NOT a lawyer and don't have that information for you.

(6:18pm) - Q: Why has LEGO not made Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff uniforms? A - I ASK ABOUT THAT!?!? I think they are trying to keep the focus on that centered, so kids aren't distracted just for the sake of making money on more sets.

(6:19pm) - Q: Is Legoland in Florida going to open next year? A - It will open, but don't know date.

(6:20pm) - Q: Why don't you update Blog and Twitter feeds more? A - It was an experiment. I hate writing without purpose. That's why it was a personal blog, not a LEGO company blog. I don't want to talk just to talk. Follow Steve on Twitter.

(6:21pm) - Q: PaB stock variability? A - We do market research, but it's tough to strike a balance. As stores expand, it will continue to become a bigger stock challenge. It also has to do with what's being made for set production in the line.

(6:22pm) - Q: How's the pay? A - I make above minimum wage and below billions.

(6:23pm) - Q: The year and a half cycle? A - That's all dependent on big-box retail structure.

(6:24pm) - Q: Lego Universe? A - We'll hold off on that, because the company LU contact is not here.

(6:24pm) - Q: Does LEGO use brand for corporate sponsorship with Boy Scouts, etc.? A - We deal with charity specifically through LEGO charity. We get requests 40 times a day. We have to specifically pick our causes because we are constantly bombarded.

(6:26pm) - Q: What's happening with CubeDudes? A - Exclusive at ComicCon and on at Celebration V.

(6:27pm) - And we're done!

We'll have a roundup post tonight or early tomorrow morning on Friday's events and some updates from the floor. Until then, enjoy this photoset from the Dulles Expo Center:

05 August 2010

Thursday Photo Dump

An overall view of the Dulles Expo Center this evening. The space is HUGE!

Hello all. It's getting late on a very long day, and I'm bushed from setup. Instead of detailed commentary, I'll provide you a bit of a photo dump this evening, and begin full coverage tomorrow as the day progresses. For Thursday's photoset, see my Flickr stream.

Pennlug sets up their layout, adjusting every detail.

The massive technic cranes have begun to rise to the rafters of the DEC.

Just a few more hours...

Listen to that synth horn line!

Here's to hoping that everyone's getting pumped for Brickfair 2010. I'm looking at the MOC registry right now, and it's reading exactly 1200 individual creations. They range from the stellar to the banal, and everything in between. I thought I'd bring together a few MOCs I'm looking forward to seeing "in the brick." First on the list is Cale Leiphart's excellent Mobil station. I had the privilege of ogling this one at Brickmagic this spring, and was very impressed.

Next on the list is Lord Kenn's "Battle of the Alamo." Although this picture is relatively unassuming, the central structure of the Alamo Mission looks just about spot-on. I'm looking forward to meeting another builder who transfers real-life landmarks into Lego.

There look to be a good deal of historical military MOCs in the pipeline for this year's 'Fair. As a military historian, expect a good deal of coverage of the cream of the crop, as well as perhaps a self-serving MOC spotlight on one of my creations.

Who you gonna call? I can't possibly resist the Ghostbusters, modeled by Steve Friedman. I live in Gettysburg, which has so recently become the ghost capital of the world. I'm a natural born skeptic, and drive through the streets of Gettysburg blaring Ray Parker's theme to the 1984 comedy flick.

Pop culture always abounds at Brickfair. Among the other references sure to be on the tables are healthy doses of Doctor Who, Star Wars and other popular Sci-Fi, not always popping up where you'd expect.

Finally, I'm looking forward to this model viola by Cindy English. Cindy has taken on this year's special theme full-bore. From the photo, this Viola appears to be an exquisite model.

Among other Music themed highlights look to be a Mindstorms powered band, other models of instruments and sculptures representing musical notes, and a few surprises of which, from their descriptions, I have no idea what to expect (Alvin Brant's "Cornbread", for instance, is apparently related to the Dave Matthews Band, but otherwise is completely confounding).

There's quite a few more MOCs, but time is running late tonight. I've packing to do and last minute details to complete, so until tomorrow, I must bid the blogging world, "adieu!" Hopefully I'll have plenty of time to recap all of the best MOCs during the event this weekend, bringing the highlights and cool techniques direct from the 'Fair to you.

02 August 2010


Arthur Gugick's stunning world landmark models as they appeared in 2009.
Art will be hosting two seminars on Architecture during this year's event.

Brickfair is about more than building or cavorting with friends. It's also about getting the chance to discuss new techniques, building philosophies and generally share information. For full registered participants, the weekend always provides for some great opportunities to sit down and chat about how we do what we do in the Lego hobby. In the past, these seminars have ranged from presentations on the process of designing Brickarms and custom fan-created pieces to informal gatherings around Pennlug's layout to discuss steam train design to cramped roundtable discussions on landscaping with the brick.

This year is tough to tell. Most of what we know about presentations and sessions comes from the current schedule posted on the Brickfair website. Todd has assured us that he wants SOME of Brickfair to be a surprise, so for now, the complete descriptions will only be available in the program guide, distributed at check-in. That doesn't mean we can't speculate a bit though, right?

Jenn Wagner, better known as “The Brick Chick” will be running two sessions, one on Friday Morning and a followup on Sunday, geared toward TFOLs and their place in the community. Jenn, Arthur Gugick and Joe Meno (of Brickjournal) are teaming up to present a series of Teen-centric activities for the weekend, including a tour of MOCs and a group collaborative “milk and cookies” build during public hours.

Art Gugick will be taking the stage himself (twice!) to discuss his astounding models of real-life architectural wonders. Art builds at a variety of scales, using parts in new and unique ways. This is sure to be a “not-to-be-missed” opportunity. During Friday’s session, Art promises to let participants get hands-on in a build lab. (*Shameless Plug Alert*) In addition to Art’s presentation on Architecture, I’ll be offering up a session on Friday at noon, immediately after Art’s, on Minifig scale architecture and finding inspiration in real architectural styles.

Danny Pikora (chief, cook and bottle washer over at Fascinating LEGO® Model of the Day) will be hosting a "Blogger's Roundtable" on Saturday Morning. If previous roundtables at Brickfair serve as any indication, expect this event to be more informal chat than formal presentation. Nonetheless, this might prove to be an excellent networking opportunity for the AFOL and TFOL blogging community, to help forge better relatonships between blogs.

Finally, Jamie Berard, LEGO Group model designer, will be presenting on Friday afternoon on “Concept Models.” No doubt, Jamie will be sharing some of the lost features and interesting artifacts of his stellar CafĂ© Corner-series of set designs.

There are plenty of other sessions which are sure to be interesting. Check your program guide when you get to the ‘Fair. I know it’s the first thing I’ll be doing!

29 July 2010

Collaborative Displays to Watch

Friday setup of Mocs and Displays from 2009's Brickfair.

This year's brickfair will be rife with collaborative displays. Collaborative displays have been relatively light in previous years, but a number of interesting and exciting projects appears to be brewing within the community.

First up, building on the popularity of the Post-Apoc Meme, is the requisite Apocalego display. Robbyem's excellent Washington Monument (seen in photo at right) will be returning. Around it will spring up a new type of apocalyptic landscape: a placid and recovering walled town in the ruins of Washington, DC. This new take on a very violent theme might prove to be a very interesting and a rebirth for what some consider a one-trick-pony.

Next on the list of collaborative displays are a two-fer. Space. The word wrests the groins and passions of a thousand AFOLs. OK, maybe not. But it is a great exclamation. There's rumblings from the Space. coordinator that space(.) has been reserved for the ever-popular moonbase. Moonbase participation has been relatively light in past years, but has yielded some stellar MOCs, including Moonbase versions of Cafe Corner and Market Street.

Finally, and most excitingly is a new project that Magnus Lauglo has been brewing and piloting this past year, after the Brickfair 2009 "brick-built landscapes" roundtable session. Magnus has worked out an interesting standard for constructing large modular landscapes for displaying massive military battles (see photo at right of Magnus' setup at 2010's Marine Corp Family Day). The local AFOL has been bringing together a few builders from varying ends of the hobby, and promises to present a fun, impressive and ever-changing display.

These new projects, combined with the standard town layouts presented by Pennlug and Wamaltc, it looks like Brickfair will have a slew of great community builds.

(Photos above by myself, Brickapolis™ and Magnus Lauglo)

28 July 2010

Organized Chaos and Chaos Organized

A diesel locomotive rolls past a 19th century plantation on Pennlug's 2009 Brickfair layout.
Pennlug's 2010 layout plan is viewable in Cale Leiphart
's Flickr stream.

I'm not going to try to hide the fact that I'm a town builder. Cityscapes and busy streets catch my fancy, so much of the coverage of Brickfair that I provide will center around this particular theme. And Brickfair this year promises to offer up some new and interesting town creations. First, Pennlug will be showing off more of their modular street standards, seen en force at Brickmagic earlier this summer. The standard features brick-built roads, integrated trolley lines and simple yet effective track ballasting. For those of you who just had your eyes glaze over, I apologize. I assure you, it's exciting.

Where Pennlug will be offering structure and minute planning, Wamaltc will offer up a good chunk of on-the-fly organization. This year's layout plan, designed by Tony Perez, offers a good deal of open space to place MOCs, large and small, for optimal public viewing. Wamaltc's layout at Brickfair becomes an amalgam of both club members and local AFOLs, with a healthy smattering of 'Fair participants and attendees lending to the layout to create an exciting hybrid city.

All of this is a long means of saying that, as we wade into Brickfair, expect a good deal of town coverage here in the pages of Brick Notes, including MOC highlights and overall reviews of the layout offerings.

NB: I've also received confirmation from the organizers that, yes, wifi will be available in the conference facility as part of Brickfair's rental agreement with Dulles Expo Center, so expect a healthy smattering of coverage of the event throughout the weekend and a good deal of "on-the-fly" Flickr uploads to my photostream.

26 July 2010

10 Days to Brickfair!

Details of Sandy Cash's brilliant Brickistan model from 2009's Brickfair. Expect more excellence from Sandy this year. Edit: See Comments.

Brickfair is only a week and a handful of days away. I'm hoping to be able to liveblog a bit of the event at this site, highlighting some of the best creations and insightful breakout sessions for those that can't make it to Northern Virginia for the four days of Lego craziness and fun.

There's a rumor that Wifi will be available in the conference facility itself. If so, I should be updating a lot. If not, I'll try to do roundups and highlight posts in the evening from the hotel.

Regardless, keep coming back as we gear up for the 'Fair here in the Mid-Atlantic!