ShaydDeGrai

Eurobricks Knights
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About ShaydDeGrai

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    Moldy Expert

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    New England

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  1. ShaydDeGrai

    Building large scale MOCs?

    When I first started going to shows, I tried just boxing up things I'd built only to find packing was a real problem. My pieces were too big, oddly shaped and fragile meaning that a) I needed really big boxes, b) I was boxing up a lot of empty space and couldn't fit as much in the car as I wanted to bring, and c) things shifted in transit, meaning I spent the better part of my first day repairing things. So, I started making custom boxes that were tighter fits to the size of the MOCs and tweaked my MOCs slightly to remove protruding or excessively delicate sections. For example, the statue shown in my icon has a removable head and extended arm comes apart at the elbow. This makes the rest of the sculpture a solid rectangular block that packs and travels well. The head and hand are more delicate, but can be boxed separately and won't be sheared off or crushed by the mass of the torso if the weight were to shift suddenly in transit. This practice helped, but creating boxes to make a snug fit around an oddly shaped MOC was a pain. These days, I actually think about the box(es) a MOC will travel in as part of the base design and scale/modularize things accordingly for an optimum fit. I've found that a really snug fit in rigid cardboard box tends to minimized damage in transit. Too much room in the box and a pot-hole or sudden stop will cause the MOC to bounce off the sidewalls of the box. I don't glue MOCs and I've found that cardboard boxes do a better job of damping vibration that might otherwise loosen bricks on long car rides (compared to plastic bins which tend to transfer the vibration). Adding custom foam-core cutouts to bridge the gap between the box sidewall and an odd shaped MOC is sometimes useful to minimized swaying and tipping. I tend to err on the side of developing a modular design that will travel in multiple, smaller boxes rather than just making sure the MOC fits in the biggest box I have. I do a lot of sculptural MOCs and, given the odd shapes, I'd hate to waste space (even if transit damage weren't a concern). When I pack a MOC (or section of a MOC) into a box I want at least 75% of the volume of the box taken up by the MOC, preferably touching the sides of the box at multiple points. I design my MOCs in sections to fill standard boxes (and to be easy to reassemble afterwards). Often re-assembly is something as simple as popping in a few technic pins and butting connection planes together, but on very large pieces, I'll resort to brick-build mortise and tenons, rabbits, and dados. Once I even used sliding dovetail joinery to put sections of a mountain landscape together where pins kept pulling apart. As with any design, breaking a MOC up into modules is a trade-off. It ups the part count, imposes constraints on your design, and raises structural issues you might otherwise be able to ignore. What it buys you (when done well) is ease of packing, minimizing the likelihood of damage and more compact storage. Knowing whether a given design should break down into a dozen shoeboxes, three small moving boxes or just be delicately packed into a custom crate made from the carton your refrigerator came in is really something that needs to be sussed out on a case by case basis.
  2. ShaydDeGrai

    [Poll] What do you do with new sets?

    My wife claims that I never take anything apart, but that's just not true. I scrap my old kits for parts in much the same way that wind and rain tear down mountains; if you look every day expecting to see the differences, you're going to think nothing's happening, but over time, if you pay attention, you'll notice some things that once were, aren't anymore. Usually my cat and gravity select the next model to land in the "to be sorted" pile. As for alternate models, I'll build them if I have hardcopy instructions (like the 3-in-1 kits) and may actually buy multiple copies of the kit so that both the primary and alternate models can persist for a time. If I have to go online for the alternate instructions (as is usually the case in Technic kits) I don't bother. I play with Lego to get away from screens and computers, so making me read instructions off a screen rather than a piece of paper is a total non-starter for me. If I put together a kit and decide it has some really cool/useful parts, I've also been known to by extra copies of the set just to part out while leaving the original build intact for years
  3. ShaydDeGrai

    What franchise should Lego do next?

    Yes and No on the "british" question. On paper, I'm a first generation Yank. My dad's family is originally from the Isle of Lewis before they moved to the "tropical south" that is Dundee, Scotland. On my mom's side, the family came down the coast from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. I grew up in a Scotch & Irish immigrant enclave just outside Boston where you were just as likely to overhear Gaelic on the streets as English (two streets over it was Italian, a block in the other direction, it was Hindi). Anyway, with the bulk of the extended family in Scotland and Canada, and living in a neighborhood where "football" meant "soccer" no matter how well the Patriots were doing in the playoffs, I grew up in a very "British culture influenced" household. My dad might _watch_ the local hockey pros (The Boston Bruins) on TV but, but he was a die-hard Dundee Tigers fan at heart. Half my comic books, toys and what passed for "pop" culture influences of the day came from Scottish relatives or BBC productions. Jon Pertwee was _my_ go to Doctor (though in hindsight it was really UNIT and the Pertwee era incarnation of The Master that drew me to the show, other Doctors got out a lot more (cosmically and temporally speaking) and David Tenet eventually unseated Pertwee for the #1 slot in my book). When I got to watch TV (which was limited as a child) I gravitated to PBS (which showed a lot of BBC stuff) and independent UHF channels, which also picked up a lot of imports) because all the people on the main channels had funny accents - well, at least I thought so, then I went to school and realized I was the one who was talking funny... Getting back to the topic at hand though, is anyone here old enough / "British" enough to remember Captain Scarlet? it was another of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation productions. As I recall Spectrum had a bunch of funky vehicles that would make interesting Lego models. I could never afford them myself growing up, but I had a friend who had the full Captain Scarlet line of Dinky Toys (he also had their full line from the UFO series, lucky bastard). About the same time that Jack Kirby was coming up with the SHIELD heli-carrier, Captain Scarlett was launching Angel Interceptors from the deck of the Cloudbase. The ground vehicles all had that sort of "Detroit Concept Car" thing going for them that made them at once retro yet timeless. As a Lego theme, I think it would be a lot of fun, as a Licensed Theme though it would be a waste of money as I haven't met anyone born after the Apollo 11 landing who even remembers this IP.
  4. ShaydDeGrai

    What franchise should Lego do next?

    I've harbored a wish-list for decades, but I doubt any of the items on it stand a chance of ever becoming official lines (mostly due to age - does anyone even remember who Gerry Anderson was these days?) So barring major reboots revitalizing forgotten franchises I doubt we'll see: 1) UFO - it only lasted one season, but SHADO had some nice hardware, a moonbase and, of course, invading aliens 2) Thunderbirds - (the marionette version, not the live action one) Five iconic vehicles, a command center and assorted action scenes to recreate 3) Star Blazers (aka Space Cruiser Yamato) - every Lego collection needs a wave motion gun and a UCS Comet Empire 4) Space:1999 - Moonbase, moon buggy, Eagles (various configurations), and Hawks 5) Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - a cheesy Gil Gerard/Erin Grey show from ~1980; again space ships, space stations robots, domed cities, lame plots and a hawk-man, what's not to love? 6) Star Trek - (all flavors, 'nuff said) 7) Stargate SG1 - Lot's of mixed culture art direction to play with on this one, from star cruisers and Death Gliders to ancient Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations 8) Battlestar Galactica- I remember building Vipers and Cylon Fighters back in 1979, the revival a few years ago made me wish it had gotten the Star Wars treatment back in the day. 9) Doctor Who - (others have already lobbied for this one, so I'll just say "ditto") 10) The Lord of the Rings - Yes, I know they already did this, but I always thought they could have done more with it. I'd love to see an Architecture-style line of iconic LOTR locations, highly detailed micro-scale models of Barad-dur, Orthanc, The Black Gate, Minas Tirith, The Argonath, The Golden Hall, Rivendell, etc. along the lines of the US Capitol Model or the upcoming Statue of Liberty kits.
  5. ShaydDeGrai

    Insuring your LEGO collection?

    I asked an agent this a couple year's back and her recommendation was to photograph everything (original box, instruction manual and model w/ figures clearly shown or the sealed box with unbroken seals clearly visible for Mint-in-Box claims) along with some "anchor" reference (like a driver's license) in every photo to prove that you were photographing _your_ set not just pulling a photo off the internet. Then back that up with a spreadsheet showing the set number, original purchase price, date of purchase and last known appraisal (which I got from a mix of BrickPicker.com and Bricklink - _asking_ prices on sites like eBay don't count, the appraisal has to be based on actual sales). Periodically backup your database to CD/DVD-R and stick it in a safety deposit box at a bank or other off site storage (friend or relative's house, desk at work whatever). Raw parts (other than minifigs) are a lot harder to prove value and, I'm told, when it comes to 'toys' most policies just take your word that you lost _something_ then cap how much they'll compensate you without hard proof. This cap is usually pretty low (2-3k) compared to the actual replacement cost. In my experience, when it comes to dealing with insurance companies, unless you have solid proof of a loss, they are very slow to compensate you. Years ago we had a brick chimney fall over in a hurricane. It went through the roof, collapsed a ceiling, destroyed some bedroom furniture and the debris damaged the hardwood floors. Then, because it left a big hole exposed to the elements for the balance of the storm, clothes, bedding, curtains, artwork, etc. in the room got serious water damage. Afterwards, we did a quick repair to the roof with just some plywood and tar paper to limit further damage, but when the insurance adjuster looked at things he wanted to reimburse us for the cost of the patch (about $200) and consider the matter closed. He claimed that if we'd maintained the (150 year old) chimney properly it wouldn't have blown over in 140mph winds; if the mortar was weak enough to allow the chimney to tip over it was something we would have had to replace eventually anyway, so replacing the chimney was a maintenance issue not an insurance one. Further, he said that we didn't have _proof_ that all the things damaged in the bedroom (including the ceiling and floor) were actually in the room and in good condition at the time of the chimney collapse, therefore those could be unrelated/unrecoverable damages that we'd simply 'staged' to milk the claim (this accusation came as he was standing in front of a dripping wet mattress covered in bricks and debris with his own footprints being the only sign of human intervention at the site). We argued, threatened to sue and he decided he'd throw in $50 for a new coat of paint to cover the water stains on the walls. In the end, we _did_ hire a lawyer, spent around $2000 in legal fees and the insurance company eventually settled out of court for ~$35,000 (but in the mean time we had to front all of our repair and replacement costs out of pocket (i.e. second mortgage), saving all of our receipts and job estimates from contractors (including the ones we didn't hire just to prove we didn't go with the most expensive bid), and it took over a year to get reimbursed). So the moral of the story is, don't assume that even if you have coverage, the insurance company will be on your side. The burden of proof is on you to prove loss and even when the magnitude of the loss seems obvious to you, remember that the adjuster works for the people who have to cut the check, not you. They will argue depreciation, authenticity, chain of custody, pre-existing condition, etc. to low-ball the settlement and the best way to defend yourself is to be as organized, knowledgable and well documented as possible (and willing to follow through if you threaten to sue - I'm willing to bet they get threats all the time, but when an actual lawyer calls them, they start paying attention).
  6. ShaydDeGrai

    Lego bulk order form

    I would love it even if they'd budge as little bit. For example, look at the 21050 Architecture Studio. The book that it comes with is lovely, but for the price I'd happily trade it for a few dozen more bricks (and sell the book separately, like people are doing aftermarket anyway). Now you'd have a lovely tub of white bricks, tiles and plates with a handful of trans-clear to go along with it - a bit like a monochromatic Creator tub for adults. Now make it available in other color schemes, like Sand Yellow (tan) with Light Trans blue, Light Bluish Gray with Trans-yellow, and Black with Trans-red - throw in a few Earth Green and Earth Blue plates in every kit as "landscaping" and you've got a useful, AFOL-friendly parts pack; All color variations are "mature and neutral" enough to justify being "expansions" of the Architecture Studio, but genuinely useful generic colors and shapes to buy in bulk. I'm not holding my breath for them to ever take me up on this idea though. As it is, the 21050 is too expensive to be a viable parts pack and too open-ended/undirected to be a real "Architecture Kit". While marketing the book separately and either lowering the price or upping the piece count could address this, it's another thing I just don't see happening. I remember the days when you could buy something like the 635 Extra Bricks in White, a polybag of Red Roof Tiles or a Castle Expander pack (gray arches, etc), but I fear as TLG embraced more and more licensed themes to claw its way back to profitability 20 years ago, actively marketing raw brick for original creations kind of fell off their radar.
  7. ShaydDeGrai

    LEGO Pet Peeves

    This touches upon one of my newer pet peeves, the recent flirtation with reissued sets without significant renovation. Something like the new UCS Millenium Falcon is borderline, but at least it has something of an interior to difference it from the prior UCS MF; but things like the Taj Mahal and the Winter Toy Shop are basically just digging into the vault and re-issuing long since discontinued sets. Fortunately this hasn't happened _much_ yet, but I'd hate for it to become a trend. I'm not a Lego Investor/Scalper, so I don't really care what that practice might do to the after-market price of mint condition kits that have been sitting in someone's closet for a decade. And I don't begrudge lines like Lego Star Wars for revisiting popular subject matter on a regular basis (how many walkers, snow speeders and TIE fighters have we had at this point?); every new generation of fans wants these _models_ (as opposed to AFOLs who want specific _kits_) and at least TLG varies the design, scale, building techniques and/or associated builds such that you're at least getting a different take on a familiar theme when the "latest revision" comes out. What bothers _me_ about near verbatim re-issues, is that there is only so much room in the line-up for high-end landmark kits (like the Taj Mahal) or specialty themes (like Winter Village and the Toy Shop) and burning those slots on re-issues means we have to wait another year or two before we see something _new_. I already own the Taj Mahal (and Tower Bridge, and Sydney Opera House, and The Eiffel Tower, and Big Ben, etc.) and when I think about all the other great examples of architecture in the world that would make fun, interesting and challenging builds but have not yet been explored, I get annoyed by the fact that TLG blew the dust off a ten year old model, added a brick separator and gave it a new kit number. I get that some people might have missed something the first time 'round and don't want to go the time or expense of bricklinking the parts or tracking down an overpriced, mint-in-box original, but I'd still rather see variations on a theme rather than straight-up re-issues. If TLG wants to issue a new Toy Shop for the winter village line, I'm fine with that - just make it a _different_ Toy Shop, my winter village is large enough to support two stores in the same market sector. As nice and historically significant as something like the Cafe Corner is, I'd much rather see them revisit the generic concept of a "Hotel above a Restaurant" and give us all a fresh building than a repackaging of the exact model they offered us 11 years ago (before a lot of us even realized we wanted modular buildings). After the Toy Shop re-release, I was concerned when I heard rumors that the next year's kit was going to be the "Holiday Train" and was (eventually) relieved to discover that the 10254 Winter Holiday Train was a very different set than the prior 10173 Holiday Train, but my point is that (at least in _my_ mind) I shouldn't have had reason to be concerned in the first place. An expectation for new and innovative sets is something we should be able to take for granted, especially in lines that only see one or two new additions per year. New takes on old ideas are fine, but leave legacy sets to the aftermarket to sort out, don't displace new ideas with re-issues.
  8. ShaydDeGrai

    LEGO Pet Peeves

    When _I_ was a kid, my friends would have said "What's Nintendo?" We also wouldn't have 'called' each other, we all had party lines and were told the phone was for adult use and emergencies only. I remember when Pong came out and when they first put video game machines in the pinball parlors; my first Lego wasn't even Lego, it was made by Samsonite. But I digress, that happens when you're older than dirt...
  9. ShaydDeGrai

    LEGO Pet Peeves

    Actually, I happen to own an unabridged dictionary from 1992 that _does_ have a listing for "LEGO". It claims it's an adjective meaning a product of The LEGO Group company and refers you to their dictionary of Brands and Trademarks. It also has entries for Q-Tip and Kleenex (described as "diluted trademarks" now in common usage as proper nouns equated with cotton swabs and disposable tissues, respectively). If they were still publishing this book today (only available on CD-ROM for the past 20 years), I wonder if "LEGO" would be "downgraded" to a proper noun for children's bricks? Academics (speaking as a former professor) like to split hairs and violently argue with one another over who or what is or isn't _technically_ _correct_ the problem is, as many have pointed out. Natural language is barely technical (in scientific terms) and its measure of correctness is best weighed against its ability to clearly and completely convey an idea or message from one person to another, not how well it can be parsed into a sentence diagram ("Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo", anyone?). And as natural languages go, English is probably one of the worst offenders because its roots touch on so many other (lexically and grammatically) different languages. While many languages adopt words from foreign tongues to describe foreign objects, English borrowed entire chunks of (incompatible) grammar and syntax. Governments, scholars and marketeers have all laid claim to being the final authority for English, often trying to rewrite the dictionary or impose a new rule of grammar as a way of advancing some tangential agenda. "Technically correct" English is littered with artifacts of prior course corrections, idioms, and popular culture references that linger long after the reason for their existence is mostly forgotten. Rules like "Never split an infinitive" "Never end a sentence with a preposition" come out of an effort to Latin-ize English and exorcise German influences because, according to Strunk (of Strunk and White), the Romans gave us art, music and philosophy and the Germans were just barbarian hordes; (I guess if people like your poetry, you get a pass on things like entertainment bloodsports and mass slavery). English speaking people were perfectly happy splitting infinitives for centuries before this "rule" was cooked up without fear of misunderstanding, but English teachers have been taking points off for decades since Elements of Style got published. Phrases like "Dutch treat" (meaning having to pay your own way), or "in Dutch" (unable to payback a debt) were introduced by propagandists working for the British government at a time when rivalries with their continental neighbor were particularly high. "Jumbo" (meaning exceptionally larger than normal) comes from the name of an elephant once displayed by P.T. Barnum (largest in captivity at the time) - people who hear about Jumbo the Elephant often think that the beast was named for the word as a marketing gimmick, but it actually started the other way around; the elephant's name comes from the Swahili for 'hello' (jambo). Apple spent millions trying to convince the world to "think different" because they felt offending grammarians would make their ads more memorable, and to this day I meet millennials who don't know the difference between an adjective and an adverb. Keeping up with the Kardashians has grossly and frequently abused the word "literally" to the point where it has become its own antonym, making the word utterly meaningless in common practice. The English language IS technically incorrect and, so long as three or more people are speaking it, it's probably beyond repair. But the purpose of language is not to be correct or technical, it is to be clear. It usually achieves that clarity through consistency (rather than correctness), and mutual assent between speaker and listener. Even something as simple as spelling is fluid over time ( though now we have machines with spell checkers trying to enforce rules and conventions upon us with squiggly red underbars). As usage evolved S.C.U.B.A became SCUBA and eventually scuba (but tip was never T.I.P., if you care); the subjunctive case is barely distinguishable from the indicative case; and, everybody knew exactly what Captain Kirk meant when he said "to boldly go..." despite Strunk spinning in his grave every time Star Trek aired. So, whether you say "LEGO bricks" or "legos" or draw offense when someone else opts for the variation you shun, please remember that the only 'technically correct' truth is that, whatever you call them, they hurt like hell when you step on them barefoot.
  10. ShaydDeGrai

    Lego Catalog

    I spend way too much time in front of screens over the course of the day so I try to adhere to a no surfing/social media after dinner rule and very little connectivity on weekends, so a paper catalog, to me, is very refreshing. Part of why I play with Lego is to escape electronics (I've been hip deep in hi-tech for 40 years now and my enthusiasm for most things related to it (except my paycheck) has waned), so using a computer really taints the process for me. If they got rid of the paper catalog, I'd probably end up buying a lot less because I have such a negative association with computers at this point. I really don't like the Lego shop web design. It's fine for placing an order (when it works), but a terrible place to browsing/discovering sets. AFOL sites are much better sources for learning about new stuff, but it's hit or miss on what's getting covered, when and where. Of course, the catalog is far less than comprehensive these days as well but it has the advantage of being browsable even when your ISP is down. I'm sure there will come a day when the printed catalog will go the way of video stores and payphones, but until that day comes I'll welcome every new Lego Catalog that lands in my mailbox like a surprise gift from an old friend.
  11. ShaydDeGrai

    LEGO Pet Peeves

    This is really a counter example in my book. I'm NOT bothered in the least by a set like this: two figures and a modest build. Sure, its a bit tiny and without Luke you might not see it as anything special, but for its price point, its still a hut. It has an innate context beyond being a vignette for the Luke mini-fig (granted it has a LOT more context once you realize this particular hut is supposed to exist a long ago in a galaxy far far away and not just any hut on a south pacific island or a stone hovel out on the Orkney Isles, but it's still a meaningful build). This is the way _I_ would prefer TLG balance the question of building versus mini-figure collecting (questions of army builders/battle packs aside, as those really _are_ all about buying a particular type of generic figure in bulk and I have no problem with that). The sort of unbalanced builds I was complaining about are more along the lines of: The set is called Captain's Cabin, but they didn't even put a single bulkhead into it. Without the figs it's a bookcase, a table and a globe - and even at that, it's a very repetitive build. I've gotten more interesting builds from polybags, free with a $75 purchase. It's utility as an army builder is limited by the presence of Jack Sparrow, do we really need a whole hoard of those? Another example might be: I suppose this is better as an army builder (give or take an excess of Dastan Scabbards running around) but a dark tan bush and a pile of bricks is more along the lines of what I'd expect as extra parts at the end of a build rather than the build itself. Here I agree with you entirely. That which unites us is far greater than that which divides us and there is more than enough room in our community for all manner of subculture. I don't happen to be into (most) minifigures, but I don't begrudge those that are. I don't like mini-dolls, but I don't actively lobby against them. I have a friend whose never created a MOC in his life, only collects Lego Star Wars and obsesses over which way the 'Lego' logo on the studs are facing as he dutifully follows the directions - He's still and AFOL in my book. It bothers me when people feel the need to exclude others over trivial differences when, at our core, we have so much in common. I see this more with TFOLs at shows, often thinking that they somehow aggrandize themselves by belittling the tastes of others when all they're really doing is making themselves look petty and losing opportunities to connect with fellow fans. I saw the same thing happen to the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comics fan community. Pre-Star Wars, we were geeks and dreamers generally mocked by the masses. There was no world wide web, and fan conventions were usually advertised via mimeo on college bulletin boards, so they were small and obscure events. We had to argue with libraries to put little "SF" stickers on the spines of books by people like Asimov, Clarke, Herbert and Heinlein because (unlike westerns, romances, and mysteries - which got their own bookcases) science fiction was just mixed in with general fiction (or dumped in the Young Adult section since, as one librarian once told me: Science Fiction isn't a genre, it's a phase, you grow out of it). When SciFi fans _did_ connect, we were a very accepting bunch. It didn't matter if you liked books or TV shows or comics better; or preferred Thunderbirds to Star Trek; or which (of the only four) Doctors was the best Doctor Who. We were so few in number (or at least it usually felt that way) that we'd accept anyone into the club. ( I ran a SciFi/Fantasy Club back in high school and I remember a lesbian couple joined and one of them didn't even care for Sci-Fi, but we were the only after school group she'd found that accepted her for who she was - though eventually she discovered the works of Andre Norton and we converted her to a Sci-fi fan). Post Star Wars, Science Fiction became acceptable and eventually popular and the internet made it easier and easier to connect with likeminded people. It should have been a golden age for the fan community, but sadly it became just another breeding ground for trolls. Topics that used to be the basis of rich, informative debate (Marvel vs. DC, Star Wars Vs. Star Trek, books vs movie) became genuine dividing points. Today, web sites and fora are filled with postings of Uber-Fans trying to out-geek one another while insulting one another's tastes and accusing each other of not being 'true' fans because of some trivial preference for obscure offering over another. Sometimes I think the "community" was better off when it was "uncool" to like SciFi and people felt lucky to get a book adapted into a movie (rather than belittle people who "liked the movie better" or, worse yet, never read the book). When it comes to Lego, let's face it, AFOLs are grown-ups playing with kids toys. Many of us (well, not me anymore) don't even have kids of our own and can't use them as an excuse. The notion that we should slight, marginalize or otherwise judge other members of our (small, but passionate) community because certain aspects of the hobby hold more appeal for one group than another is just foolish and like @MAB it irks me when someone gets all self-righteous about their special interest being "the one true path". May we never become so mainstream that we can afford to push other AFOLs away simply for expressing their individuality and their tastes.
  12. ShaydDeGrai

    LEGO Pet Peeves

    While I side with the camp that feels the licensed sets really pushed the "Let's include a build-able element to circumvent the action-figure license issue, but we're really selling mini-figures not a construction toy" envelope, I think the place where this really marked a decline in a quality building experience in favor of collecting mini-figures _started_ with Harry Potter, not Star Wars. SW is vehicle-rich and most vehicles work as interesting kits with or without mini-figs. The mini-figs, in those cases, are like a sticker sheet; they dress up an already interesting build but they don't need to be there for the vehicle to "make sense" as a play element. HP was more sets and locations. Take away the figures from a lot of those kits (particularly in the low to mid range price-wise) and you've got a wall segment, or a set of stairs, or a spindly-looking tree, or a couple of hoops on sticks. It's not until you're shelling out the big bucks for the Hogwarts Express Train or a decent rendering of Hogwart's Castle or Diagon Alley that you're finally working on a construction set that is augmented by figures rather than the other way 'round. Since HP, other lines have also suffered the mini-figure centric curse (including SW) with pathetic little builds serving only as backdrops for spiffy mini-figures (again, mostly at the lower end of the price spectrum), but if City can release enjoyable, figure-optional kits for under $40 (and likewise Creator kits figure-free but totally worthwhile in the same price range) why can't more attention be paid to the subject matter and build experience of media IP and licensed sets? Including a cool/exclusive figure shouldn't be an excuse for slacking off on the quality of the build. And I'm also _not_ saying that the builds with licensed IP are universally lower quality. While Pirates of the Caribbean was not without its faults, overall I thought they struct a pretty good balance of figure to building component, and you didn't have to get into the Black Pearl and Queen Anne's Revenge price range to find a decent model, with the exception of Captains Cabin and Isla De La Muerta, interesting builds were pretty much spread across the (price) line, so it _can_ be done, just sometimes it isn't. And for the record, I totally would have bought the yellow castle even without mini-figures. When I started playing with Lego there were no mini-figures, and while I thought the introduction of "slabbies" was interesting, they never "sold" a set for me. When the first "real" mini-figures came out, I distinctly remember not liking the posable arms. For me, they looked too "cutesy" without enough range of motion to match my vision but just enough to interfere with it. These days, most of the (1,000+) mini-figures I own live in tubs and shoe boxes where they've not seen the light of day in years. I _appreciate_ that min-fig collecting is a huge subculture among AFOLs (and more power to 'em), I'm just not a member of that club. I also prefer coffee ice cream over chocolate, so sue me.
  13. While I very much agree with this, I think there will still be consequences, particularly in the realm of entry-level impulse sales. Toys R Us was a great venue for buying something when you weren't sure what you wanted (or in the case of Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents, didn't quite know what Johnny or Janie would like) or (speaking as the father of a young, strong willed child) just needed to buy a quick stocking stuffer to trade for a quiet car ride home. For some people, (myself included) these impulse buys become the gateway drug for discovering Lego in a world increasingly obsessed with virtual, screen-based entertainment. Several million bricks ago, I came out of my dark ages because of an impulse buy at TRU. My niece got into Lego because her mother took her into a TRU to buy a doll and she (the kid) decided to get a LEGO kit instead. Granted this is just anecdotal evidence based on two data points, but my gut tells me that we can't be the only ones who ended up embracing the hobby due to a serendipitous find when we weren't looking for anything in particular or started off looking for something else. TLG enjoys great brand loyalty (something increasingly rare these days) among its established customers. Most AFOLs I know hope their kids will get into it as well. But as a children's toy (and a pricy one at that) the reality is there is always another generation of kids who are aging out of their of the target demographic and another wave that need to be introduced to the toy. Losing TRU means losing an avenue of introduction. On-line sales are fine and I'm very lucky to live within easy driving distance of four LEGO stores and a Discovery Center gift shop; but those are all predicated on the idea that you've gone out of your way to buy something "LEGO". Going to an actual toy store when you're not into/really aware of LEGO gives one the chance to discover and embrace something new. Growing up with LEGO and being part of the AFOL community often makes it easy to forget that there are non-(but potential)-FOLs out there; but that is the very demographic most essential to sustaining the company. Attracting new customers is the only way a business can avoid market saturation. Losing TRU, costs TLG about 15% of its "showroom" for attracting new customers, and they'll need to make up for that somehow. Sadly, from a society standpoint, I think there will also be some class ramifications to the TRU closures. I can't speak for the rest of the country, but at least in my area the LEGO shops are all in higher end malls catering to upper-middle class families. The two TRU stores (left at this point) are both in strip malls in, let's just say, less affluent suburbs. I walk into the LEGO store and the staff is far more diverse than the clientele. I walk into TRU and I see people of all ethnicities; I hear people speaking half a dozen foreign languages. As a former engineering professor and INROADS (a program to encourage minorities in engineering professions) mentor, I think it would be a shame fewer kids from poorer neighborhoods got the opportunity to discover LEGO (and their own creative potential) because their folks don't shop at malls that charge for parking and sell coffee for $10 a cup.
  14. ShaydDeGrai

    Lack of original themes

    I wouldn't know about "most" girls, but I had a friend growing up that used to trick out her Barbie dolls with parts from tank models to make killer cyborgs. My favorite of her designs had a Barbie torso fitted into a panzer caterpillar base, with a howitzer for an arm and machine guns coming out of her hair like antennae (GI Joe never stood a chance). It's a pretty safe bet that if a Friends-Mecha line had been available then, she would have been all over it. So it's probably safe to say that there _is_ an audience out there, I'm just not sure it's large enough to sustain a toy line.
  15. ShaydDeGrai

    Does anyone play any musical instruments?

    I studied trumpet for 12 years before finally acknowledging I was terrible at it and I was doing the world of music a favor by locking my horn away in a closet and moving on to quieter pursuits... I always wanted to learn the piano, but that was my sister's instrument and my folks didn't want to put me in a position where I might be stealing her thunder. Growing up, I had a habit of mimicking what my big sister was doing and often ended up excelling at things she 'thought' she was good at; it created its fair share of tension at home. It was frustrating growing up with a piano in the living room and only being able to touch it when no one else was home.