aesthetics and shit

This past May we graduated from a public university with two liberal arts degrees, dear readers. Now that we have settled into a part-time job that is completely unrelated to our fields of study and requires few of the skills that we mastered in college, we have a lot of time to think about the important things in life while we try to figure out why the fuck we put ourselves through six years of school and what we'll do now. One thought that pops up frequently is related to Legos, which is why we are blagging about it. One of our other hobbies is riding bicycles. There are many ways to ride a bicycle and equally many ways to behave when doing so. Some bicyclists like to ride on roads, others like to ride on mountain bike trails. Some of the latter prefer to simply ride winding dirt paths through the woods while others prefer technical trails that challenge one's "skills". Some who prefer technical trails argue over the types of tires and number of chain rings that one should use, the frame/component materials and safety gear that one should have, and the ways that trails should be designed. Many riders become emotionally attached to their preferences and it is difficult for people new to the hobby to discover what works for their needs.

In the Lego train circles there are divides among groups about how wide one should build a train out of Lego. With the exception of Emerald Night (there are probably others, we don't care enough to find them) all official Lego train sets were six wide. The entire system (i.e. train specific parts like doors, windscreens and curved track) was designed around a six stud wide platform, which some Lego builders cite as a reason to build six wide. Other builders point to the width of the straight train tracks (that is, the track gauge)as a reason to build wider (e.g. 8 studs wide) trains. Unless your model is a as caricatured as a minifig, any argument that cites the size of minifigs as a source of scale is invalid. Seven wide trains are a common compromise, but are far less popular than six and eight wide trains.

When we joined our Lego train club we started to build trains and were faced with a decision on how wide we should build our trains. Before we joined, other members were already building six wide trains, so the club's layout was scaled and designed for six wide trains. Regretfully being the child of middle-middle-class adult humans, our parents could not afford to buy us enough parts to make our own layout at whatever scale we wished, so we chose to spend our lunch money on Lego parts to build six wide trains that fit our club's existing standards. The fact that a six wide train requires fewer parts and are thus, on average cheaper, encouraged this decision. Being a lonely, asocial teenager, the environment of our Lego train club and the existing "feud" between AHOLs gave us a movement to cling to and connections to make. We memorized all the advantages of six wide trains and convinced ourselves that we were better a better builder for choosing the "right" side. We felt that we mattered and belonged to something, even if that something was a bunch of adults making model trains out of a child's building toy and talking to each other on the internet.

Over time we invested a lot of time and money building a collection of six wide trains. Our decision to build six wide trains was rather arbitrary - neither good nor bad. As we reflect on it, that decision dictated the rest of what we did in our hobby. As evident from the lack of new my own creations in our flickr photostream and the lack of blag poasts, our interests are shifting away from Legos, which gives us a good opportunity to reflect on how Legos will play a role in our future. One thing that we have reflected on a lot lately is what it means for something pertaining to Lego to be "good" to us and why those things matter to us. Why did we develop the preferences that we did? Our AHOL friends certainly help us create our subdivisions within the hobby and perpetuate our values but, overtime, the reasons why we made such decisions become unclear. Why are brown stampunk my own creations so gaudy? How come it's bad to just dump a bunch of blueish parts on the ground and call it "water"? Obviously we think that we are "right", but why? Do our opinions matter? Do you notice us? Are we pretty too? I just want pretty people to tell me that they notice me.

i was ten years old, in 2006

which is better dear readers. old days or new days. i like the news days because i am in them.

The summer semester is for loud, smacking collegiate sex

Which, dear readers, is precisely what we are not having, because as punks and assholes we (I) instead choose to build LEGO in the dorm room. 412B's fuck moans still permeate the walls, further shattering our hope that sex is just an elaborate lie.

31014 (x2) custom

Limitations are truly a great way to flex creative muscles. I don't have the time or space anymore to support a serious LEGO habit, so by necessity relapses must be kept succinct. I built this truck exclusively from the parts of two sets of 31014.

I was drawn to these new wheel molds:

It's a slick looking part. As I'm accustomed to older molds it didn't quite register as a LEGO product. Not really digging the metallic finish. I appreciate variety in the part library, though. The diameter of the assembled wheel and tire is new to me. It is just greater than two studs, so the smallest full-stud difference between the axles is three.

31014 (x2) custom

During the winter recess, I built this building using only parts I was able to cram into the smaller Pick a Brick cup size off the wall at the Rockefeller Center store. There's a dare. Get to a LEGO store, pack a PaB cup as best you can, make something independent of parts from other sources.


Tonight I had dinner with Lukas, fellow hobbyist and former Young Spacer, at a ramen noodle joint in Downtown Brooklyn. New York is a cool place and I'm glad it attracts cool people, like Lukas. We discussed LEGO and what we've gained socially through the fan community during our teenage years.

Social ties in our hobby usually originate online, on forums, in the past decade more via the yahoo company's flickr service. Dedicated LEGO conventions offer an opportunity to physically meet fellow hobbyists and find out just how strange the people behind the screen names are in real life. (Matty.) I've found it kind of remarkable and I could probably discuss it in length. I think I will, another time.

Speaking of conventions, both Lukas and I were absent from this year's Brickworld Chicago event, which took place this weekend. As were a number of our close LEGO friends, like these guys. And Matty. In the past Camp Twee has been one of Brickworld's most eminent attractions, at least to us. I am certain this year's convention was lesser for our absence. Amidst undeserved orange flags, baseplates of arrayed castle mini figures, and the life size Halo brickarms, no-where could be found our brand of cynicism and whimsy. Carry on, carry on.

yeah basically no one c00L was at Brickworld '14. Unless you count these darlings:

peace bros

Professional AmAzE

The complexities of the framing systems are have always amazed me.

They [LEGO blocks] require no skill to use

Totally lacking in skill, I remove myself from the adult world, where there was a lot of "crits." I elect to relive my childhood over and over again until the day I am placed in the earth. People fork over a lot of money in museum gift shops for boxes with my name on them.

© Nathan Sawyer

more like *boss*man!!!

Melt down yr cafe corner layouts and build something like this, dear readers.

þæt ealde hors

Do you watch watch the podcast Beyond the Brick, dear readers? We don't, but since reader Dave Kaleta was recently interviewed we figured we would listen to what Dave has to say, since it's normally worth listening to. At the end of the second part Dave and the hosts talk about Lego as an art form, which is a discussion that is as old as balls in the Lego community. Dave makes the argument that Lego is not intentional art. That is, when AHOLs sit down to play with their blocks, their goals are to make my own creations, not art. This is an argument that we have not heard before (we stopped reading forums so maybe people have talked about we don't know) and was interesting to listen to.

A lot of our own building primarily involves recreating things that exist in real life (trains and, more recently, buildings). That means, when we sit down to play, we have the intention to (re)create some facet of human existence. Now, as we have blagged in the past, we went to community college and took an art history class there, so we know some things about art, like the Realism movement in the 19th Century. Dave went to art school and has forgotten more than we know, but we think our opinion matters and are going to keep blagging anyway. With Lego, one is obviously more limited in the amount of reality that one can convey in any scale than compared to traditional sculpture, which leads to a process called "selective compression", which means deliberately omitting certain details without losing the overall concept. While one could construe selective compression as "stylizing", which would not be "realistic", it is an unfortunate and necessary reality of the medium that we AHOLs have chosen. It is literally impossible to perfectly recreate something out of Legos. The intention to portray reality remains.

Obviously (unfortunately) not every builds the same way that we do, but their intentions are still the same. Someone building an imaginary phallus spaceship is still working within a canonical framework of spaceships (one that is not exclusive the Lego canon) that needs to be believable. How is the spaceship going to navigate through space? How is the spaceship going to pew the bad guys? How does the space ship barrel-roll? Though the requirements for a spaceship to be believable may change more rapidly and are considerably less constrictive than those for a row house or diesel-electric locomotive, all AHOLs have to portray reality. And what about mosaics? Long have mosaics been considered the closest that an AHOL can get to making art, but anymore the trend in building a mosaic out of Legos is to use parts cleverly to create an image, which would (erroneously) lead one to the conclusion that mosaic builders are building for the sake of technique, not to portray a reality. But for all their stacks of printed tiles, no one will accept an image that is not believably realistic. If Roy Cook has gotten Halle Berry's eyes wrong, no one would have liked his mosaic.

What do you think, dear readers? Obviously people like Nathan Sawaya are not making art out of Lego since they are only literally stacking basic colored bricks and convincing people with more money than cognitive abilities that his my own creations are art, but what about the rest of us? Post a valued opinion below and tell us what you think.