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About ShaydDeGrai

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  1. 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...
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Toys R Us going out of business prices

    Yeah, a mattress store near my office had been advertising a "Going Out of Business" sale pretty much continuously since they first opened in 2007. They finally closed up shop for real last year. As for TRU, around me, things are still hovering at or above MSRP (5% off an already inflated price); Nothing like the real bargains I scooped up back when KB Toys went belly up.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. LEGO Pet Peeves

    Granted 9474 Mines of Moria had a pretty good price point (and the second lowest price per piece ratio of the LOTR line) but there was wiggle room to make the set a better building experience and less of a sticker laden, piecemeal backdrop for mini-figures. I've seen mods of the official Mines of Moria that use less than a hundred additional parts and part substitutions to address successfully many of criticisms of the set. That would equate to about a 10% shift in the price point but still keep the MSRP under $100 and still $40 cheaper than Helm's Deep. Personally, however, I would haven take a different approach and kept the price point while narrowing the scope of the set (and introducing additional sets at other price points. Mines of Moria had nine figures in it (which probably contributed a lot to its popularity) but _I_ would have been happy with fewer figures in _this_ kit, a better build, and more kits to choose from. One could almost get an entire release wave out of the Mines of Moria story sequence ( Speak Friend and Enter, The Watcher in the Lake, The Tomb of Balin, Attack of the Cave Troll, The Bridge of Khazard Dum (with brick built Balrog), etc.). But then, I've always felt that they underutilized the LOTR license and was more than a little disappointed that the (excellent) minifigures overshadowed the building potential for the line. I would have loved to see, say, a Prancing Pony/Bree set along the lines of a 3739 Blacksmith's Shop or one of the buildings from the 10193 Medieval Market Village or a Golden Hall of Rohan akin to the 4842 Hogwarts Castle. Sadly, with the exception of Helm's Deep and Orthanc (and Bag End, but that's technically a different line), it seems most of the kits viewed the buildings as afterthoughts rather than focal points. Even 9472 Attack on Weathertop which had a nice "little" build suffered from issues of scale (and the second highest part per piece ratio of the line); if the price per piece had been closer to the average for the line (~10.5 cents) that would have translated to roughly 200 additional pieces available to expand the building at the same price point. Like the Harry Potter line, the LOTR has the innate disadvantage of not having cool spaceships and other swooshable vehicles as its primary construction component, so it relied heavily on the minifigures to sell the play-ability aspect of many of its kits. While I fully understand that this is a children's toy and play-ability matters, it still irks me that when the primary building subject is a piece of grand architecture, it takes a back seat to the minifigure standing in front of it. For nearly all City sets, I can leave off the stickers and remove the mini-figs and rarely do I find myself asking "what's that supposed to be?" when I look at what's left; that's not always the case when it comes to licensed sets with exclusive figures, and that's a pity.
  11. The Dark Ages

    I appreciate where you are coming from. I grew up with Lego-envy, never able to afford the really cool sets and had a dark age forced upon me when I needed to save for college and really couldn't afford much of anything (I kept what Lego I had but didn't play with it much because it just reminded me that I could afford to buy any of the new stuff that looked so inviting). After college I _was_ in a position to start buying again - but I didn't. I'd gotten out of the habit of building, true, but more to the point, part of me was so busy "being an adult" and having "adult" friends and "adult" hobbies, that I forgot to focus on being me. I think most people eventually reach a point where they look back and realize just how foolish they'd been at some point decades earlier (be it a first crush, a favored pop-star, questionable grooming and/or fashion sense, whatever). Too often, our foolish mistake is putting too much weight behind the opinions of people who are making foolish mistakes of their own. I remember something a Thermodynamics professor of mine said on the first day of class: "Don't bother copying answers from your friends, your friends may be morons and you'll be just as stupid as they are if you assume their wrong answer is better than your own. Better to be uniquely wrong than a wrong, boring sheep." If I could go back in time and tell 22 year old me that it's fine to play with Lego and that it doesn't matter if Carol, Kevin and John all think it's childish, I would do it in a heartbeat. (Of course, knowing how arrogant and foolish I was at 22, I probably wouldn't listen to myself until Future Me revealed that Carol was sleeping with Kevin behind my back and John still has all his Kenner Star Wars action figures from 1977 in a foot locker in his bedroom...) I wasted several years and thousands of dollars on hobbies and distractions that were never nearly as satisfying as my return to Lego and I wish I'd had the courage and forethought to embrace my inner AFOL much earlier. Actually, I used to be a professor in an engineering department and I not only played with Lego in my spare time, I used it in my classes and assigned design and prototyping projects with it as homework. In the end, you need to focus on what makes you happy, embraces your innate creativity, and, if possible, finds a way to make the world a better place while doing it. If Lego makes you happy, do it. If you make a brick film that puts a smile on a stranger's face or inspires someone else to get into the hobby, this is a good thing. If your friends can't see this, it's their problem, not yours.
  12. How did you come out of your Dark Ages?

    I grew up generally Lego-poor and probably a bit envious of the collections my friends had (but, in my opinion, did not appreciate). I'd get a few kits a year (birthday, Easter, Christmas, maybe a special treat when vacationing with my grandmother) but, in general, we just couldn't really afford much. My dark ages started when my dad got laid off and every dime I could earn either went into my college fund or contributing to the family budget. Lego acquisition dropped to near nil as the focus moved to putting food on the table and saving for school. Skip ahead a couple decades and I'd graduated without debt and landed a good job that paid more than my dad was making at the time. One day, I happened to be playing chauffeur for my mother and was killing time in Toys R Us while she did her grocery shopping. I wandered down the Lego aisle and spotted the 8480 Technic Space Shuttle. I looked at the price tag and realized I'd never spent that much (~160USD) on a Lego set in my life. A moment later, I realized I also wasn't a ten year old kid trying to scrape together nickels and dimes from my paper route anymore. My friends from college were off squandering their new-found prosperity on fast cars, ski trips and designer fashions - I bought a space shuttle. I remember staying up half the night and finishing the build in one session. It was very cathartic; remembering all those kits I wanted as a child but couldn't afford; reflecting on the kits the campus bookstore had the audacity to stock just to taunt me as I gaped at the price of my required textbooks each semester; kicking myself for not having had the courage to walk into a toy store years earlier once the last tuition bill was paid for fear that people wouldn't understand why an adult would be playing with toys; and finally, telling myself, "screw that, I'm having fun and it's nobody's damned business but my own!" The next day I went back to Toys R Us and got more kits, called Enfield Connecticut to get on TLG's mailing list for their catalogs and the rest, as they say, is history.
  13. LEGO Pet Peeves

    "LEGOs" used to bother me for all the classic, not-enough-to-worry-about-already reasons ("It's an adjective, not a noun!", "It's trademark dilution!", "It's not legally or grammatically correct!", etc.), then I had a child. She's taught me to lower my expectations of others and grow a thicker skin. Now I don't even bat an eye when she says "let's play DUPLO" or "can we play with Daddy's legos? I promise not to break anything this time..." I'm just happy she likes her blocks and it's something we can do together. As for pet peeves I _haven't_ gotten over, I'd have to give the top slot to stickers, not just individual bits of hard-to-align sticky decals, but the whole philosophy behind them. I remember debating the point with Jamie Berard (Creator designer) at BrickFair New England a few years back. He was actually trying to get feedback from AFOLs on the question of printed bricks versus stickers (the former being generally considered "nicer" and more durable but more restrictive for reuse; and, the latter being more flexible for MOCs allowing people place stickers on the color brick of their choice or omit them entirely if they are parting out the set rather than building the model). My take on it is a bit different: overuse of stickers (or printed elements) is a sign of a lazy design. If you're designing a Ferrari, the model should look enough like a Ferrari that you don't have to cover a generic red toy car with Ferrari logos to 'sell' the model. The form language of the shape should suffice. I'm fine with little title plates for Architecture sets or the occasional clock face or printed window element (and, of course, mini-fig prints are a whole different matter) but over the years, TLG has released more than its fair share of kits that look pretty lame if you omit the stickers. I'd much rather pay a little more for a kit with a few extra pieces that produces an interesting build with lots of reuse potential than, say, a kit with a single big wall panel and a sticker to make the wall "interesting." Which would you prefer, a lightsaber handle, flame, a 1x2 brick w/clip and four 1x2 profile bricks or, a 1x2x5 brick with a sticker of a torch and mortar joints? To be clear, I'm not against stickers (well, that's not true, I'd rather have pre-printed elements) entirely, I'm against designs that _need_ surface prints to 'clarify' the model because the underlying form language is overly simplistic. Which brings me to my other big pet peeve, (non-battle pack) sets that are basically excuses to sell minifigures. Much of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit stuff (and even some Harry Potter and Star Wars sets) suffered in this regard. I realize that the figures are collectable and that the way some of these toy licenses are written, differencing "action figure" rights from "construction toy" ones, TLG can't sell just the figures, they have to have a meaningful build-able component while still being affordable; but I find it disappointing when the figure overshadows the overall design. My litmus test for this is to build the kit, skip the stickers and remove all the figures and look at what's left. Sometimes it's great (e.g. most mid- to high-end Star Wars ships). Sometimes it's so generic and simplistic its hard to know what minifigure was supposed to be in the scene ("Hmm, tan wall with a sand green roof, maybe that's part of Hogwarts?") . And sometimes it's a real missed opportunity to offer a great build ("Seriously? That's supposed to be the Mines of Moria?") The Creator and City line rarely commit such sins, it's a pity that once one moves into the realms of named collectable mini-figs and licensed themes that the vignettes aren't always up to par. Maybe I'm just older than dirt (I've been a fan of Lego since the days before there _were_ minifigures) but I think of Lego first and foremost as a construction toy, the minifigures are just icing on the cake and should be there to enhance the model, not the other way 'round. I'm not saying they aren't cool collectables, I just think they shouldn't be considered an excuse to sell a mediocre kit.
  14. I can't agree more. In my mind there's a good way and a risky way to do licensing and leading with a modest but high quality line across the price spectrum seems like the way to go. A couple of "stocking stuffers"/impulse buys, a few mid-range kits and flagship model once (or twice) a year for an unproven IP makes a lot more sense to me than three dozen largely forgettable kits that are mostly "background bricks" for some select mini-figure. If the line is successful and the property has staying power, plan to make more later, but the focus should be on quality rather than quantity. Interesting sets with useful generic parts will usually find an audience even if the licensed lego means little to them, but if you bet on the IP alone selling a crappy set for you, and interest in that IP wanes, you're kinda stuck.
  15. From the various articles I've read, I don't think the high-end sets and exclusives are really the problem. I say this for a couple reasons. 1) The production runs on those kits seem to be limited. For example the $800 MF sold out quickly and the four lego stores in my area each started "wait-lists" for people who wanted to be called when they got more. TLG itself send out a mailing asking people if they intended to buy it (presumably to get a sense of how many more they should make) and a second email (to those who'd responded to the first) when new orders were being accepted again. I got mine promptly but five hours later a friend told me his attempt to buy one failed. So, I'm assuming that demand is exceeding supply for its target audience. 2) TLG has repeatedly cited excess inventory and old inventory clogging shelf space at third party retailers as part of the problem. This largely lets exclusives off the hook because they don't compete in the same price range and/or aren't stocked at all by third parties. I just don't see a dozen copies of poorly selling Expert series modular (if there is such a thing) burning precious retail shelf space for months on end. Even Lego Shops themselves just don't put out more than a couple copies of the high-end kits at time, they are just too easy to restock from the back room on demand; why waste prime eye-candy space on redundancy. (now maybe you _do_ a point with respect to some people curbing their low-end purchases to save up for something big, and that _would_ slow inventory turnover, but that's also not a new thing; people do it all the time, even during TLG's most profitable years, so I don't think it's a major factor now). 3) TLG has also cited City, DUPLO, Friends, Technic and basic bricks/creator as star performers in a down year. The only "themed" line that they called out as doing well was the Lego Batman movie. Reading a bit between the lines, that implies to me that it was really the licensed stuff and the media tie-ins where supply was exceeding demand. Such kits have always been the riskiest gamble with respect to an audience's short attention span. Something like the Emerald Night, or a Mini-Cooper, or a recognizable supercar is just a classic build that will always find an audience. But if you guess wrong with something like The Lone Ranger, or The Prince of Persia, or other other "big promise" movies that had no staying power at the box office, you've got a problem because, like the movie tickets themselves a third of the total sales happen in the first two weeks. Sure train AFOLs might grab want the train kit from TLR and western fans might love its stagecoach kits, but those are niche markets compared to kids who _loved_ the movie. Even the one-time savior of the TLG, Lego Star Wars, is not without its risks. Granted there are a handful of iconic ships that will always find an audience, but it's been done and redone so many times that there are also a lot of kits that just aren't _that_ iconic anymore. Perhaps the new Jabba's Castle isn't as cool as a previous version, or giant battle of Hoth is more just a bundle of smaller kits we've seen before, or this "exclusive" minifigure is _so_ exclusive you can't even remember which movie/tv show (let alone which scene) he actually was in or why you should care. Now, clearly, those examples hail from several years ago but I think the concept still applies. Last year there were dozens of Batman, Ninjago Movie, Star Wars, Ghostbusters, DC and Marvel Superheroes, Nexo-Knights, Dimensions, etc. sets vying for shelf space in front of eyes with short attention spans. I find it a little too easy to believe that they overestimated the demand for impulse buys on properties that weren't as popular as they thought they were going to be when they started designing the kits. Star Wars fatigue is setting in across the industry. Physical toy stores are going the way of bookstores in Amazon's wake. And, the popularity of TV properties change faster than scandal headlines coming out of today's White House. I think they need to remember their roots and focus on the building experience. In the past, they've gotten themselves in trouble with theme parks, software, and toys that aren't "lego" (as we love it). I think they need to be careful about over-playing their licensed/media tie-in hands and focus on growing wisely rather than quickly. In that world, quality "expert" sets aren't the problem, they are (part of) the solution.