Monday, June 29, 2009

Finally!

I got blogged by The Brothers Brick! I've been working toward this moment for almost exactly a year. Woo-hoo!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brickworld 2009 - Sunday

Sunday was a very short day. I rolled out of bed and set-up my laptop for the public. Moved my luggage down to my car and check-out of my room Spent more time at public hours, same idea as yesterday. Found out I won Dirty Buildster!

Attended “Lego from a Girl’s Perspective” where 13-year old OliviaConahue talked about what she likes and doesn’t like about lego. It was interesting to hear her perspective and I hope the LEGO employees in attendance were taking notes. It seems like they have been taking steps in the right direction anyway, but still, the current small percentage of female minifigs and “realistic” themes is disappointing.

The rest of the public hours flew by and then it was time for the (very short) awards/closing ceremony. We got into to the room and I thought “weren’t we just in here for the opening ceremony?” They took a group picture of all the contest winners, which I got to be in. Because I won two contests Bryan said, "Next year we'll make him build with his eyes closed." I didn’t get a trophy for Dirty Buildster, but they will be mailing one to me. Then it was over and it was time to break down. It wasn’t long before all my stuff was packed up and ready to go.

Then I went across the street with Mark and Steve to get dinner. Did I mention Steve? Mark I met last year, but Steve wasn’t there last year. Two years ago he brought this crazy castle which I remember. He has been active in the AFOL community for quite some time now. He currently works at Legoland CA as a master builder/designer. Mark is going to be flying out there this week (as I’m writing this he’s there, by the time this is posting he will probably be back) to apply for an open position they have (he got it!). After dinner we said our goodbyes and I dropped Steve off at O’Hare and then I drove home.

Now that I’ve actually gotten to the end of Brickworld (in writing about it) I feel like there is still so much I’ve left out. There were several other fans I met and had great conversations with, lots of cool models I saw and just so much that happened that even with this play-by-play I built using the schedule I still feel like there is so much I haven’t told you.

Brickworld may physically be over, but mentally it will still be going on at least for another week or so.

Brickworld 2009 - Saturday

I got downstairs with only ~15 minutes before the doors were opened to the public. I got my laptop up and running and then waited for the crowds. There were a lot of people who passed by, I actually missed the biggest crowds, since I went out to lunch, but I spent most of the public expo time (10 AM – 4 PM) sitting at my display.

Some people were hesitant to touch my computer to choose a movie even though I had signs telling them to do so, but anytime I saw someone lingering around watching my DVD menu repeat I would point out that they could click to watch the full movies. I was vigilant at making sure there were MooCards for people to take, that the DVD player stayed full screen and that the octopus machine was spinning whenever there were people around. I answered the typical questions (how did you make this? what equipment/software do you use? Are these online? and of course, how long did it take you?) and a bunch of story specific ones (why did they take their arms off? What’s so great about shielding? What happened to the soccer player that soccersaurus kicked?).

Other than that I mostly just sat back and watched as people crowded around the computer and made mental notes of what they found funny. As the kids watched “Out of Bonds” they would point to the soccer field display next to it as different parts came on to screen. My favorite moment was when a ~6 year old kid pointed at the Robert and Phil who were set up in the NNN studio and said “he’s a robber and he escaped from prison and then he hired him!” People also enjoyed looking through the crowd in the stadium and pointing out all the different monsters/crazy characters who were there.

I did do a little walking around during this time (finished up the Botanic Ballroom) where I talked to Ricecracker AKA Issac Mazer AKA the incredibly mature 14 year old and his mother. Here are some other cool things I saw during that time.

Tiffany, Krista, and Tiffany’s friend Anne came up around lunchtime and we went to the nearby Claim Jumpers – a mining themed restaurant I will not be visiting again. Then I showed them my set-up and other creations sprinkled around the room and Anne had to leave but Tiffany and Krista stayed for the last couple hours of the public expo walking around on their own. We talked about their favorites (many of which I had not had time to see) and then I drove them to the Metra station.

I came back and was deciding whether I should go up to my room for a quick nap or hang around the main ballroom for a while. I knew that the CEO of LEGO, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, was supposed to be giving a speech around that time while people were lined up for Pick-a-Brick. However, I didn’t see him around and figured I had missed him and the owner of LEGO, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, entirely. I started heading up to my room and then as I was turning into the lobby, who should I see but Kjeld and Jorgen heading toward the main display hall. I quickly turned around and went back to my table and waited for them to pass by.

Kjeld passed by about 15 minutes later and I said heloo, shook his hand, showed him how Soccersaurus’s legs moved and he watched maybe 20 seconds of “Out of Bonds” and then I pressed one of my MooCards into his hand. He took another look at my name tag and repeated “David Pickett” to himself. I was told before that he is very good with names, so that was probably him memorizing mine. Sweet!

Jorgen did not come my way, but he did give a nice speech to all assembled, during which I told the kids watching my movies that I was closing down the laptop because that was more important. I’m sure his speech is online somewhere since there were cameras aplenty. My takeaway was that they were “overwhelmed” by the things we build.

While I was driving Krista and Tiffany to the train I missed the announcement of the winner of the combo build. This may have been fortuitous. After the Kjeld & Jorgen excitement faded away I noticed that several people had removed their combo models from the judging table. I went over there to see if I could figure out the deal was. As I was approaching my model John-Henry Harris (remember him?) and Asli Bilgin (remember her?) walked over. John-Henry was pointing at my model and telling Asli what he liked about it. He then said that he voted for it and that it was ultimately the winner.

“That one won?” I asked innocently. “I built that!”
“You’re David Pickett? Here, have a prize!”

John-Henry then proceeded to tell me the various things he liked about my model. He compared it to graffiti style monsters he and his co-workers (at LEGO!) had been researching. He also pointed out the heart-shaped face and the golden robot heart in between them. Then he talked about the models/themes he had created as part of his job application for LEGO. It involved bunnies in the forest fighting against an evil steel queen who was intent on destroying the forest. Asli had us pose for a picture (which I need to get from her).

Then I asked if they had seen my display, and the three of us proceeded to walk over there together. I showed them my various monsters and handed them my MooCards and started explaining the story behind “Out of Bonds” to them. I showed them parts of the animation. Asli was confused about the players taking off their arms, but John-Henry understood immediately. We talked for a bit more and John-Henry promised to show my animations to all his co-workers (at LEGO) and said “I lived with some animators for a while, so I really appreciate the amount of time and energy you guys put in.” And then they had to run off to something else.

I was bummed I didn’t get to talk to them longer, but excited that a LEGO designer was getting so excited talking about my creations. I was floating on cloud nine for a while after that for sure. Then I went around to try an see the rest of the creations on display specifically the ones that had been nominated for awards so I could vote for the best ones. I ended up walking around with David Pagano and William Jennings (who was very concerned about how to address just one of us, since we were both David P’s, eventually he decided on Dave {me} and David). Here are more links to pictures of the AWESOME stuff on display.

Then I ran off to Potbellies for dinner yet again and got back just as movie night was starting. David had put together a bunch of LEGO animations, commercials and other related videos and was projecting them for a crowd of about 50 people. He also showed “Out of Bonds” and let me give a little introduction. I stayed for about half of the program, at which point a lack of sleep and a belly full of potbellies were taking their toll. I went up to my room and had a lovely 1.5 hour nap.

I came downstairs and finished my rounds of the halls and finalized my votes and then I prepared for World of Lights. The main lights went down and the creations lit up. Here’s what my display looked like for about an hour and a half.


And here are some of the other AMAZING light displays. I was particularly impressed by the displays that made the light seem natural.

The best part of World of Lights (and arguably all of Brickworld) though, was when Asli brought Tim Courtney and a couple other people over to my display to show them my stuff. That in itself was merely flattering, but what she then proceeded to tell me blew me away. She said that after John-Henry and her had left earlier that they had gone out for dinner and drinks and then proceeded to talk about me for an hour! I understand that “an hour” may have been an exaggeration, but it was clear that they were both really impressed by me. Alsi said she was impressed by my marketing, “You had four components; tactile, visual, take-away and then you, your personality.” And she said that John-Henry was impressed by the way I build stories around my creations and that he wanted me to come to Billund (the HQ of LEGO, where they design all their new products, for those of you who don’t know). This is the point where my jaw hit the floor.

I confirmed with Asli that she wasn’t pulling my leg and she assured me that he really was that impressed and excited about me. She also went on and said that if I ever needed anything from Microsoft to just drop her an e-mail and reiterated again how impressive my marketing was, especially for a 24 year old, but that really I should be working in design. After she went away with her companions I sat in stunned silence for about 10 minutes. My mind was reeling.

After World of Lights wound down I went up to Mark and Mikael’s suite for party times with other cool AFOLs. I ended up talking to Asli some more and found out that John-Henry was already on his way back to Europe (I was hoping to talk to him on Sunday). I impressed Steve DeCraemer and Tim Courtney by knowing about Auczilla and Rec.Toys.Lego. I finally went to sleep around 4 AM

Brickworld 2009 - Friday

I woke up, got ready and got downstairs as quick as I could. I used the free wi-fi in the lobby to check e-mail, make sure “Out of Bonds” was working right and throw some quick status messages up. I set my computer up back at my table and then went off to “Being a Designer at LEGO.”

This session was by John-Henry Harris, who’s been a designer at LEGO for about 18 months (I think). Remember his name, he will appear again later. Here are the three sets he’s designed that are on shelves now. He talked about the process and constraints of designing a set, which I was more or less familiar with from talking with Matthew Ashton and Jamie Berard last year, as well as numerous BrickJournal articles. Still, it’s always nice to hear about your dream job, and know that even though there are problems (German kids don’t understand Ice Dragons, you have to stay within price points etc.) it is mostly awesome. He talked about how all the designers work together in an open workspace and get feedback from one another on different designs and how every summer there’s a period where they spend a few weeks just building all sorts of crazy new models as they brainstorm ideas for the next year.

Then I ran to Chipotle for lunch, and spent a little time sitting at my display and then I went to the FFOL Roundtable where I was one of 3 men. Of course the focus was on the ~16 women. It was interesting to hear their perspectives on the hobby and what they like and want and how they feel about their husbands being involved with LEGO etc. It ended up being more of a MOC show-and-tell than a discussion of issues, which was fun, but not exactly what I was hoping for.

Then I went to “Serious Study of the Brick” where a small, motley crew discussed the creation of an online site/forum dedicated to academic studies of LEGO. I talked about the talk I gave In January about the otherization/imperialism trends in the past 30 years. We talked about possible formats and names (I suggested BrickThink) and such. Could be interesting, we’ll see where it goes.

Then there was some a brief time for hanging out at my display before the opening ceremony. I think this is when David Pagano and I first saw each other this year. I had introduced myself briefly on the last day to him last year, but this year we hung out a whole bunch more. We’re both David Michael P’s who animate using lego and are very close to the same age, so it’s only natural that we got along. He is currently living off of lego animation as he has been commissioned by LEGO to make these Space Police animations. Pretty cool. We talked about doing some combined displays/stuff for Brickworld next year.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the other two animators I met at Brickworld. Rifraf AKA William Jennings had a little display set-up in one of the other display rooms and did some animating during the public hours. OneBrickMedia AKA Sean Carroll found me on Thursday night and he and his younger brother watched through all of my movies. His younger brother spent so much time watching my movies that by the end of the weekend he had them memorized. At some point during the weekend Sean showed me some of his movies and we laughed. His family sort of used my display as homebase for the weekend and so his mom and brother would often come by looking for one another. He also cheered me on during the combo build (see below), which was nice.

The opening ceremony was nothing worth talking about really. Then there was a group photo taken and then (pay attention, those italics must imply something important!) there was a raffle to see who would participate in the combo build that evening. The combo build was an event sponsored by LEGO where 30 lucky people were given three unopened sets and then given ~2 hours to build something new out of those pieces. I was fortunate to be drawn for it and then I rushed to Potbellies to pick up a sandwich, soda and cookie and brought them back just before the contest was starting. They put us at tables in the hallway outside the main ballroom, handed us out three sets and let us go wild.

I started by sorting all my pieces by color. The first thing that caught my eyes were those big purple/yellow spikes. I had gotten some of them when I purchased that set over a year ago and never found a good use for them, so I was determined to make them a central component of my model. I looked through my yellow pieces, saw a big curved piece and knew that they where going to be a bear claw. I made one claw and put it aside while I investigated the other pieces. I liked the way the orange cockpit and green curved sloped looked next to each other, so I found a way to connect them, which slowly took shape into a lizard/fish type creature. Then I went back and built the rest of my yellow/purple bear. Then I needed to connect the two. Having them fight was too easy and too obvious, so I decided to have them fall in love instead. I used the robot bodies to make a heart and thus “Monster Love” was born.


I then drove over to the Northbrook LEGO store for the in-store event where they had a huge selection of slightly damaged sets at 50% off. The way they did the line this year was totally nonsensical. You pulled a raffle ticket which had a color on it. That determined your position in line. I got there half an hour after the event had started and pulled the color that had gone in first, so I got to get in before a couple hundred people, some of whom had been standing in line for an hour and a half. I wasn’t complaining though. I picked up this Power Miners set for the giant rock monster, this drawbridge set I was going to buy at full price anyway, this duplo set for the adorable baby animals, and these two bionicle sets for the snowflake & blue flame pieces. I was in and out in no time at all, not really fair, but not my fault.

I went back to the hotel and finished up my Dirty Buildster creation. I was very happy with the way it turned out. I was given the Clickits remover and challenged to find a way to use it. Once I had figured out it was going to be a tongue, it was just a matter of building the rest of the creation around it.


Then I finally started walking around the 3 display rooms to look at all the incredible creations and take pictures and talk to the creators. I only got through half of one room, but I saw cool custom minifigs, this amazing pond scene, these really intense vignettes by a 14 year-old, a giant space worm, a giant football stadium (of the three stadiums on display, mine was by far the smallest), the MST3K robots, and other cool things.

Then at about 1:30 AM I called it a night, since I would have to be up early in the morning again for the public expo. Then I decided that sleep was a waste of time and went back downstairs to hang out some more. I finally talked to Mark, who had been so busy putting his display together he hadn’t done anything else (Mark update - less than a week later he landed a job as a master builder at Legoland California). I helped stabilize the train tracks on his display until they finally kicked us out of the ballroom.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Brickworld 2009 - Thursday

Warning – The Brickworld posts are Long and Rambly and possibly don’t entirely make sense.

I was up very late on Wednesday night finishing “Out of Bonds” and set it to export/compress while I slept. I woke up on Thursday and started uploading it to youTube. The estimated upload time was 7 hours. I compressed a smaller version that had a more reasonable upload time of 4 hours. While it was uploading I finished packing, ate lunch, took a shower, went and picked up the Zip Car and loaded up all my legos and luggage. As soon as it was up I posted the link and then I was off to Brickworld.

I missed the morning/early afternoon workshops on Thursday, but I hadn’t been too excited for them anyway, so it wasn’t a big loss. I pulled up right as they were opening the main display halls, got registered and checked in to my room, dropped my legos off at my tables, dropped my luggage in my room and then went down to the River Ballroom for the WomenBuild Presentation.

WomenBuild is the brainchild of Asli Bilgin (who will be important later in the weekend). It’s a program that uses LEGO Serious Play to engage women in the software development industry. I had heard about LEGO Serious Play before, but only in a vague way. The most interesting thing I learned was that while the % of women in all other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines is rising, the % in computer science is drastically dwindling.

After that there was a session where we got to try out Serious Play and talk about the problems facing the online AFOL community. The first thing we had to do was take the bricks we were provided with and build a tower that represented some aspect of our personality. Mine of course had a camera and a little me (just two eyes and two arms) behind the camera moving the pieces in front. Then we had to build something that represented a problem/hurdle we saw in the lego fandom.

Me and most of the other people at my table, focused on the fragmented nature of the online AFOL community (space people don’t talk to castle people, train people don’t talk to pirate people, no one even realizes the lego animation community exists etc.) but what I thought was more interesting was the one woman at our table who thought the biggest challenge was in how the rest of the world views us. She is in her 40s and most of her friends don’t know about her life as a lego fan. She feels like she doesn’t have anyone to talk to about it. She is in the lego closet. In that moment I felt very glad to have this blog where I frequently post about legos without having to worry about who might see them and know how crazy I am.

The last challenge we had was to build a solution to the problem we had defined. Most of these involved a central site that acted as a portal to the various splinter sites. Then we had to arrange all of our table’s models together and explain the rationale to the whole group. I was the spokesperson for our group as can be seen here. It was a fun exercise, although I don’t know what will come of it, there was someone from LEGO there videotaping and apparently the tape was given to the owner of LEGO, but it’s one of those things where it’s very easy for people to talk about solutions and another thing entirely to implement them.

Then I ran to Potbellies for dinner. I came back and got my pieces for Dirty Buildster and then ran off to do more set-up on my display. Then I went back to the room for Dirty Brickster where I passed on Lego Checkers from last year (mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!) and picked up a new Agents set I’d wanted. Then I returned to the main event hall and finished setting up my display. Already that night I had people watching my videos and checking my stuff out. Then I turned in early since I hadn’t slept much the previous night.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

So awesome

I just shook hands with the owner of LEGO and gave him one of my NNN business cards!

My Brickworld 2009 Display




Monday, June 8, 2009

Falling behind / speeding forward

1) Despite this being a crazy week of craziness I was able to get some animating done, and now haw the beginnings of the NNN intro sequence.

2) Finished up the College Scholarship Video that has been the source of much of the recent craziness in my work life. It was projected all big and beautiful in Hutch Commons on Saturday in front of a crowd of ~200. There's still other stuff that will be done with this project, but the crazy deadline has passed. Phew!

Also it was very well received. It reportedly made at least one person cry, and I heard it make plenty of people laugh.

3) The logistical nightmare of Alumni Weekend ended up not being so bad. Tiffany had a very quiet Friday in the office and I only walked across campus instead of sprinting like last year. And while i worked a full day Saturday, it was in no way crazy. I paced anxiously whenever I had nothing else to do, but everything turned out fine.

4) The week leading up to the weekend was very full, so full I can't remember it all very well. I slept at strange hours and not enough, but like I said I managed to squeeze in animating almost every weeknight, and had other nice breaks. I think that the nicest thing to come home to after a long day is a package of LEGO sitting at my front door.

5) And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention all the time I got to spend with my friends this week. Dinners as usual with Stephanie and Paul and Tiffany, Seth and Krista. Delicious and delightful.
I met a good friend of Tiffany's from high school. Paul, Stephanie and I finished the wire season 3. Farewell Hampsterdam! Stephanie and I watched the third to last Pushing Daisies episode. It was wonderful. It's such a travesty that this show got canceled. It deserved at least a full second season. Let's hope Dollhouse can stick it out a little longer.

6) I also had Buffy season 7 to retreat into. There have been some good moments, but some episode I have fallen asleep during and not felt like I missed anything (ironically one of them was called "Sleeper".) Still, it's a nice escape that doesn't require much effort.

7) Oh yeah, and then there was the part where I acutally participating in Alumni Weekend events as an Alum. On Friday night there was a young alumni party with an open bar. I went with Paul and Stephanie and then who should show up but Dave Massant and his new/first boyfriend, Michael. Dave was very asexual when I knew him in college, so it was news to me that he was gay. It was great to talk with him about that and Michael is great and they're adorable together, and much wine was consumed so it was a really lovely evening. Stephanie broke a wine glass and I spilled another one (on her, sorry!) and I discovered that Mechandise Mart is creepy after it closes, but still an accessible CTA stop. Also, no ankles were sprained!

8) Saturday after I finished working I went to the ChicaGO party because I was hungry and I knew there would be people there I knew. Shared a table with Dave and Michael and Louis etc. The dessert spread was fantastic (the dinner buffet, less so) they had cheesecake lollipops and tuxedo strawberries and all sorts of tiny tasty treats. I also ran into Agraja and her boyfriend who I knew from my days working in the basement of the student activities center (oh, how I hated the rubber bands!) and who are now working for Google and strating a neuroscience PhD program. Also spent some time with Kelly Finn. Wonderful.

9) Then I met up with JJ and went to the LGBTQ Alumni celebration which was hosted at this very swank penthous apartment in east Hyde Park that has a magnificent view of the city and lake. Talked more with Robert, who I re-met through JJ a couple weeks back and am trying to befriend.

Also, introduced myself to Bill Michel, though he had some peripheral awareness of who I was before, now he knows who I am. Why am I mentioning this? Because I remember when he introduced our Aims of Education address, Orientation Week of my first year, I remember hand delivering the first printed copy of Vita Excolatur. More than the President, or the Provost (who taught the class that made me decide I didn't like physics after all), he has always represented the University administration to me... and he's cool. Why am I explaining this tiny interaction in such detail? Because last time I brought up Bill Michael (friday night, he made an appearance at the young alumni thing), Stephanie gave a blank stare.

Also ran into my former boss from the basement of the student activities center - Diana Doty. She's doing well, is exactly how I remember her, ever though I didn't remember that's how she was until I saw her again. When she interviewed me for that job, I sat in a beanbag chair. She would often come out of her office to go on tiny quirky rants. She was a very fun boss.

Also met this guy, Ryan Reed. He's a graduating senior (English major) who will be in Chicago for the summer. He is also very cute. We ended up talking for quite some time - about work, video games, Greg Cheyne (his former RA and current housemate, my former friend / straight-boy crush from firstyear), writing, and so on. We also may have kissed on the aforementioned balcony with the gorgeous view. We may then have noticed that there were people watching us from the other side of the giant windows that connected one side of the balcony wit hthe apartment. We may not have cared. Anyway, we'll see what comes of this, he's obivously got a lot to deal with right now with the graduating and finding a job and all that, but we exchanged numbers and all that, so a date is likely.

10) Sunday. Went to Little Dead Riding Hood with Dana and Stephanie. Some of the tapping was awesome, and the costumes were all fantastic. The idea of characters breaking free from their stories and eventually killing their creator interests me and while this didn't explore the interesting meta-fitctional ramifications too deeply, it was certainly fun.

Then I went on a wikispiral at this site. It started with a link Robert posted to this page and took me to places as diverse as Draco in Leather Pants, Sorting Algorithm of Evil, Sliding Scale Of Fourth Wall Hardness, Eldritch Abomination, Disney Villain Death, and much much more. Even now as I am putting up these links I am opening new tabs and beginning yet another spiral.

Went to Paul and Stephanie's house for board games with David and Michael. Twas fun.

All in all it's been a wonderful week, despite the crazy. These next couple weeks are also going to be crazy as I frantically try to prepare fro Brickworld and the end of the fiscal year at work, but it should be a different magnitude of crazy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009