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Captain Zuloo

'Behind the Helm'

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Hey everyone, and welcome to another episode of ‘Behind the Helm’, the new interview series from Classic-Pirates.com. I’m Connor Hicks, aka Captain Zuloo, and over the past few weeks I have been on the lookout for some of the most interesting personalities in the LEGO Pirate community in the hope that we can dig up their pirate-y stories.

C-P: Today, we have a Eurobricks Root Admin with us. Not only was he largely responsible for setting up the ever-popular Eurobricks Reviewer’s Academy, but he also has a large amount to do with the upkeep of Classic-Pirates.com and the Pirate forum. Of course, I’m talking about Tom Jacobs, known as Bonaparte in the online community. Welcome to the show Tom!

Bonaparte: Thanks Connor, I’m happy to be on the show :pir-classic:

C-P: Let’s start with your interest in LEGO. Could you tell us a little about how you got into the LEGO hobby and what you like about it?

Bonaparte: Ok, well first of all, I’m a big fan of history. I wanted to study history, but in the end I didn’t, but history has always been a bit my hobby and there’s a big link between what I do with LEGO and my passion for history. So whenever I see or hear something on the topic of historic fact, I try to bring it to life by building it or doing something around it with LEGO bricks. And that’s been really the red line between me, my passion for history and LEGO bricks.

I’ve been looking for which time period I would focus on. Eventually I ended up with the Napoleonic era, so everything I’ve been building is situated around the 1800’s, the Napoleonic era. So from now all my MOCs, be it an army, a ship or building, has to fit into that time period else I’ll have too many things that don’t remotely fit together.

C-P: Ok, so do you remember what your first LEGO set was?

Bonaparte: When I was very young I started with space. So I got some of those Classic Space sets and started my LEGO hobby with them. Galaxy Explorer, the big blue space ship, was probably one of the first LEGO sets I got from my parents.

C-P: Ah, the classic Galaxy Explorer. It’s interesting to see the set number of this set, because it’s 497. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a 3-digit set number! So would you call space your favorite theme, or would you say you have a different one?

Bonaparte: Well, when I was a kid, I started with space. But when I started school in Belgium, the way the history classes go, you learn things from the start of the timeline, so prehistoric times etc, then continue along the timeline to the present day. So whatever we were learning in school at the time was usually what would turn up in my MOCs. For instance, when we were learning about ancient Egypt, I was building pyramids and Egyptian temples and when we were learning about the Middle Ages, I was building castles and such. So what I was learning about in school very much dictated what I would build from LEGO bricks in my youth (before my dark-ages).

I never actually built a pyramid, as I saw MOCs of pyramids around Johnny Thunder’s time and I thought they were fairly plain, un-challenging builds.

Yeah, pyramids are boring, but I think the thing is, when you are young, you have so much imagination. So when you build your MOC and it looks really average, you can still use your imagination to make it something grand, something special. And I must say, I miss having that incredible imagination I had when I was a child.

C-P: Well, you seem to have eluded my question again :pir-tongue: . So would you say the Egypt/adventure concept is your favourite theme?

Bonaparte: No. I eventually ended up with Pirates because the sets/parts from it are most useful for that 1800’s Napoleonic era that I was aiming for. So Pirates were really my favourite theme.

C-P: It’s interesting, the pirate’s theme used shakos, but apparently shakos weren’t introduced until after the golden age of piracy.

Bonaparte: Correct. The shakos weren’t actually introduced until around 1806 when they became widely spread amongst many nationalities. Actually, now that you’re talking about shakos, when I was a kid, I saw the pirate sets in the LEGO catalogs a few months before they were available in the stores. Somewhere in 1988 I think. And I immediately fell in love with this new revolutionary minifig – epaulets, a shako, great torsos. Some even had facial hair! As a kid I stared making decals and putting them on my minifigs months before the actual pirate sets came out. So all my minifigs had these hand crafted decals exactly like the advertised ones, and I fell in love with this new theme just from seeing the pictures in the catalog.

C-P: Ok, so what do you think about the new Pirates theme?

Bonaparte: New Pirate theme eh? Well, I have only bought one set so far, and that’s the Soldier’s Fort. I think that’s a good set, and it gives a good outlook on the rest of the new Pirates theme, but mainly I like this new line because of all the parts and minifigs.

The parts are very good for building MOCs. And I’ve decided a little while ago that I would focus much less on collecting sets and huge armies of minifigs and focus more on building MOCs. So I’m very happy that with the release of the new Pirates, parts become available on Bricklink for much more acceptable prices.

C-P: Yes, the Soldier’s Fort was a good set, with a mother lode of accessories. If you’re looking for a set in the new Pirates line for accessories, the Soldier’s Fort is the set to get.

Bonaparte: True. But I find it amusing that they call it a fortress. It’s really not a fortress. If you compare it to the older fortress, Eldorado if I’m not mistaking…That’s a fortress! It has walls all around, it has a tower – nobody will dispute that that’s a fortress! But what do we have now? It’s like a docking place for…rowboats! But I’m hoping that as the fort is modular, there will be a next part coming out to enlarge it. I’m still a bit skeptical, but I hope that’s the direction that The LEGO Group go by creating add-ons for the fortress.

C-P: Do you think we'll see a second wave of sets in 2010?

Bonaparte: I think it depends on how well they sell, although they seem to be doing alright. I really hope for a second wave we may get the modular fortress extension that I mentioned earlier, and also, a lot of people have been talking about an imperial ship. Sadly though, I really doubt that we’ll get the huge imperial ship that we have all been wanting. I think we may get an imperial ship of smaller size to Brickbeard’s Bounty because the main market of LEGO is kids. And when a parent walks into a shop and sees a ship on the shelves, they aren’t going to care much about what ship they buy (pirate or imperial), they'll just care about the budget they're planning to spend. So if there are two equal sized (read: equal cost) ships on the shelves, a ship is a ship for a parent and they’ll just grab any. I mean, what's the value for LEGO in making a big imperial ship of the same price of the Brickbeard's Bounty?

C-P: Sadly, I think you’re right. But I do look forward to a new imperial ship. So do you actually have a favourite 2009 Pirate set? I would assume Soldier’s Fort, because that’s the one you mentioned you had, but do you prefer any others?

Bonaparte: I actually also have the impulse set Soldier’s Arsenal. When it came out, I immediately bought 13 of them to make a little army that I’ll use for British marines. I already have a large collection of the old Imperial Guards which are also red, so I worked out the best way to combine the two is to buy enough of the new soldiers to serve as marines on my British fleet. So probably my favourite set from this 2009 Pirates line would be the soldier impulse set because I'm such a minifig freak and that set is great for minifig collectors.

C-P: Which MOC are you currently working on?

Bonaparte: For the past 6 months I have been working on a British two-deck ship-of-the-line. I’ve been building her for half a year and I’ve probably used over 150 meters of rope to rig her. So I just put on the sails on now, and I hope to release the HMS Prince of Wales on Classic-Pirates.com soon.

C-P: What’s your favourite Classic Pirate set?

Bonaparte: Hmm…That’s a tough one. I would probably have to say the Eldorado Fortress is my favorite classic set. It was one of the first sets I bought after my dark ages off of eBay and I was really pleased to get it, but the Black Seas Barracuda was also a brilliant one.

C-P: Fair enough. How long have you been an admin at Eurobricks?

Bonaparte: Good question. A year and a half maybe? Something like that – my memory is terrible with things like this. I became a Root Admin at a time when we decided we were getting so much traffic we needed to get a new server for our forum. Previously the site was hosted on a server that we were allowed to use for free, but at the end of 2007, we realized that we were getting so many users and so much traffic and it was getting too hard to keep it up and running, so we decided it was time to start renting our own server. We had been working for months to prepare the migration because we had to move the entire database and forum software to the new server and when we did that we also decided that we were going to upgrade the software as it was old and we wanted to update to the newest version of our forum software. If I remember correctly, it was a Sunday morning in April 2008 when we started moving everything to the new server, and by Sunday evening, we were alive and kicking again. Although it did take a few months to make it more stable and to smooth out all the kinks. It also took a few server upgrades as we were getting more and more users and the server couldn’t handle the traffic, but it seems we are ok now as only recently we received for the first time over 1,000 simultaneous users on Eurobricks. That’s one of the things I love about Eurobricks – it never sleeps. When I come home from a party at 4 in the morning, there will always be someone online, someone to talk with about my favorite hobby.

C-P: Indeed. It’s a great place to discuss our great hobby with many people all over the world. What's your role in maintaining the great site? What do you do at Eurobricks?

Bonaparte: I spend most time maintaining the server. In the admin team, everyone has a bit his role, and a big part of mine is maintaining the server. I also maintain the relationship with our provider. So when the server is encountering troubles, I’m the one that will contact the provider and find out what’s going on. Our server is located in a server room in Germany, so my job is the boring server work. And if I have nothing to do, it means that there’s nothing wrong, and that’s a good thing.

C-P: And what about Classic-Pirates.com? What do you do there?

Bonaparte: Today we have a fine team behind Classic-Pirates.com so my role is limited. But as Pirates is my favorite theme, that’s the forum I’m most active on. In the past, I actually did more in the Pirates forum. I was previously a pirates moderator (must have been somewhere in 2006-2007) along with Mr Tiber, and that was actually my first staff position on Eurobricks. During that time, as well as moderating the forum, my main activity was indexing MOCs and I was the first person to make a thumbnail index. Previously all indexed MOCs were text links, but now most of them have thumbnail image links to the MOC galleries or forum threads.

C-P: What are your thoughts on the Classic-Pirates crew?

Bonaparte: I think we have quite a good crew. It’s quite the oiled machine. They have a rather large list of tasks, like ensuring that there is always news added to the blog daily, creating graphics, preparing contests and executing them. And Zorro and his two masters Erdbeereis and yourself are doing a mighty fine job coordinating everything now that Mister Phes has less time for Classic-Pirates due to his real life activities.

C-P: Thank you! What do you think about the future of Eurobricks and Classic-Pirates.com?

Bonaparte: I think the future of Eurobricks is just to keep things up and running, not only now but several years from now. Continuity is very important to me! But you know, improving here or there, we might add another specialized forum, something around a specific topic. But other than that, I think our member base is growing, and I predict that it’ll keep growing as people discover what a wonderful community Eurobricks is. And if we can maintain the maturity levels that I believe we have now, as we’re still an adult based forum, we’ll be strong well into the future.

C-P: And finally, as it seems to be becoming tradition, where did you acquire your display name?

Bonaparte: Well, I originally joined Eurobricks to show my French minifig army, so Bonaparte was the first thing that came to mind. I originally spelled it without capitalization, but Mister Phes was kind enough to change the lower case ‘b’ into an upper case ‘B’.

C-P: Ok, well thank you for joining me Tom. I have found your story very interesting, and I’m sure all our readers have too. So thank you very much for your time, and keep on building!

And thank you too everyone, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of ‘Behind the Helm’. I look forward to seeing you next time!

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Galaxy Explorer, the big blue space ship, was probably one of the first LEGO sets I got from my parents.

and that's an awesome set^^

nice interview Captain Zuloo ! yay for Bonaparte!

Edited by Guss

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"Bonaparte: Ok, well first of all, I’m a big fan of history. I wanted to study history, but in the end I didn’t, but history has always been a bit my hobby and there’s a big link between what I do with LEGO and my passion for history. So whenever I see or hear something on the topic of historic fact, I try to bring it to life by building it or doing something around it with LEGO bricks. And that’s been really the red line between me, my passion for history and LEGO bricks.

I’ve been looking for which time period I would focus on. Eventually I ended up with the Napoleonic era, so everything I’ve been building is situated around the 1800’s, the Napoleonic era. So from now all my MOCs, be it an army, a ship or building, has to fit into that time period else I’ll have too many things that don’t remotely fit together."

I believe I've found a kind of soulmate! Exactly the same here, my whole LEGO obsession started like this way. :pir-blush:

Nice job on the interview guys! Other people's stories about LEGO are always very interesting to read, I'm happy the "Behind the Helm series" are here!

Now I'm very eager to see the next episode!

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Nice interview, I always knew B. was a history fan.

Bonaparte: If you compare it to the older fortress, Eldorado if I
Edited by General Armendariz

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Galaxy Explorer, the big blue space ship, was probably one of the first LEGO sets I got from my parents.

Me too. I loved that set. Really nice interview. Thanks for sharing. I also used to build the different lessons from history. Thanks for all you do to keep the site going. Great job.

Edited by Commodore Hornbricker

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Very nice interview! We all seem to be in agreement on a great many things. I hate to say how right you are about a big imperial ship and sets prices... BUT maybe they make it bigger than BB?!

I know... wishful thinking...

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A very good interview, Mister Zuloo!

Although I knew Bonaparte better before, I enjoyed reading it!

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Good Review. I havn't been on in a while so this is a good treat to come back too :pir_laugh2:

Edited by Broadside

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