Now that some set box images have been leaked I almost feel like it's not worth moving on with Return of the King.  Plus, the Hobbit movie adaptation(s) is going to be different from the book so that will weigh on the design of the sets.

But, I'm nothing if not a glutton for completion so here we go.

Our first scene is Smeagol and Deagol (I'm not typing in the é every time, sorry) fishing and then fighting and then dying/killing over the ring.  Probably not a good set.  Followed by a meeting of the remaining Fellowship at Isengard to have a last word with Saruman.  Seeing as Grima stabs him, then he plummets to die on a spiked wheel, it's probably not a good set.  However, that scene isn't in the theatrical version so it may not make it to a Lego set.

Meduseld - The first thing I can see being a set is the hall of Meduseld in Edoras.  The group is back together for the most part, they are hailing their victory at Helm's Deep, Merry and Pippen are dancing and everyone is drinking.  Lego likes to make medieval houses so having one with a lot of Rohirrim and neat cups would be cool.

Gollum, Sam and Frodo - The three travel through many wastes and rocky outcroppings, there are only going to be a couple of times that a good set might come up.  Early one we'll skip their travels.

Pippen sneaks a peak at the Palantir, gets in trouble, he and Gandalf leave.  Arwen is leaving for Valinor but has a vision and comes back to Rivendell.  Sadly, I can see her leaving with all her house accouterments and elf friends/servants as being a set.  Lots of elves, some horses and trees.  They don't do anything, but I bet you TLG will try to get some girls out of this by making an Arwen set or two.  (See Fellowship)

Steward - The sword of Narsil is reforged and Gandalf and Pippen meet Denethor, which I can see as a set.  Three minigifs, a guard, the throne and the steward's chair.  Also, Denethor might have the broken Horn of Gondor.  Denethor is a crazy person so I wouldn't be surprised if he had an Emperor Palpetine type face.

Also, just realized.  Star Wars did flesh colored minifigs, I wonder if LOTR will do the same?

The Beacon is lit.  This will probably be a set.  Merry climbing up a little tower with some thatch and pitch while two guards look on.

After this there's a lot of fighting in this so let's just quickly sum up what's left so I can get back to work.

The Rohirrim assemble, Frodo and Sam go past Minas Morgul up the stairs to Shellob.  Frodo is captured but Sam rescues him.  Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli leave Theoden and take the Dimholt road to the Dwimoberg mountain and recruit the King of the Dead.  (I'll have to look this up officially, the movie script just calls him the king of the dead.)  Orcs attack Osgilliath, Denethor hates Faramir and sends him back to basically get killed and then the Orcs attack Minas Tirath.  The Rohirrim show up and attack, the army's of the south show up and then the army of the dead arrive and wipe out the remaining bits of the Army of Mordor.  Eowyn takes out the Witch King of Agmar with Merry's help.

Sets out of this will be:

Shellob - Sam and Frodo vs. a giant spider.

Osgilliath - A few orcs, Faramir and some ruined buildings.

Minas Tirith - Aside from a throne room, there will be at least three battle sets for the Battle of Pellenor Fields/Breach of Minas Tirith.  I see one set with Gothmog (that disfigured orc) on a warg with a siege machine or catapult.  A big set with the outer wall of Minas Tirith, some Gondorian soldiers and orcs.  And an interior fight set with Pippen, Gandalf and the Witch King.  Finally two concluding sets, one with Theoden on a horse, maybe with Eomer, as well as at least one Oliphaunt.  The other being some dead warriors engaged in battle with Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn.

Although the corsairs from the south have ships and Lego likes boats, I don't know that these are important enough to make into sets, but I could be really wrong.

Dwimoberg - A set of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in the kingdom of the dead would be awesome.  A trans-green castle, lots of skull minifig heads and neon green soldiers.  Wicked.

Cirith Ungol - Frodo is capture, Sam goes to save him.  Sam's luck holds as the orcs end up killing themselves.  But the tower would be a good set, plus some uruk-hai, orcs, Frodo and Sam.

Frodo and Sam in Orc Gear - Marching into the vast emptiness leading up to Mount Doom and past the Eye of Sauron, the two hobbits dress as orcs to get past the last of the army.

The Eye of Sauron - It's the most iconic symbol in the whole of the movie and should only be dealt with here.  How they'd build it I have no idea, but it has been done.  The thing is, Lego won't build on that scale.  Much like the Republic Y-Wing I built, TLG group isn't worried about scale.  The tower will be big the same way the Death Star was big.  It's big enough to be the biggest thing in the series, but not stupid enough to preclude actually buying it.  The same will go for The Eye of Sauron and possibly a Minas Tirith set.

Mount Doom - All their marching and trudging and fighting off Gollum will ultimately pay off by their scene inside the volcano of Mt. Doom.  Lots of trans-orange and brown, disheveled Frodo and Sam minifigs and Gollum.  How they're going to do the ring I have no idea.  Maybe a gold 1x1 rounded plate?

The Black Gate - As a distraction, Aragorn leads a last distraction to the black gate where they fight to give Frodo more time.  It's not really a needed set but I can see it happening, especially as it'll now be the new Aragorn in his king minifig printing.

Rescue by the Eagles - I think an exterior of Mt. Doom with Frodo, Sam, Gandlaf and a couple Eagles would be a good set.

After that the movie is over as far as playsets are concerned.  There's the recovery, the crowing ceremony and the march back to the Shire.  There's the marriage of Rosie and Sam and the eventual departure of Gandalf, Celeborn, Galadriel, Elrond, Bilbo and Frodo.

So, my guess is there will be a lot of Castle line like playsets for LOTR.  Which means the sets will be either really big or really small.  As you can see from the leaked images, there are already sets with a LOT of figures and minifigs drive up prices.  This will be an expensive line but it's only a preview of the minifig smorgasbord that is The Hobbit.  Along with Bilbo and Gandalf, there are 13 dwarves and for the most part they are all doing everything together!

If I were Lego, I'd release the Twelve Dwarves and the Nine Fellowship Companions (as well as maybe the Nazgul, because technically there are nine of them as well) as their own sets and then go light on the figure count per each set.  I feel that'd be the best way for everyone to enjoy the sets but not feel like they are missing anything from the story itself.

I hope you enjoyed reading all this and if you have any suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them.

Carry on.



In the previous post, we discussed my hesitation at jumping on the Joy Bandwagon that is running driverless around the internet.  LEGO and Warner Brothers have teamed up to bring Lord of the Rings to life via Lego.

My fellow Lego nerd (and girlfriend) Tiger Lily had some things to say about it.  She is actually quite excited about the prospect and enjoys the idea of Lego bringing their castle knowledge to LOTR.  Rivendell and Helm's Deep were of special mention.  While we disagreed on some aspects, I agree that the larger areas would be really fun to set up.  I'm thinking mostly of Minas Tirith, but we'll get to that later.

At any rate, here are some things I think TLG will do for the second film, The Two Towers.  Now, keep in mind, there's no reason they couldn't just release everything under The Lord of the Rings title and be done with it.  In fact, I fully expect them not to differentiate between movies.  Star Wars did that to some extent by not necessarily saying that the Imperial Shuttle was in fact a Lambda Class Shuttle first seen in Empire Strikes Back but made more popular in Return of the Jedi.  Similarly, an Orc Battle set could be avoid being tied to any specific point.  But therein lies the difference.  A TIE Fighter shows up all over the place in Star Wars, but the Balrog shows up for just a few minutes in The Fellowship.  Not that that has anything to do with anything, just pointing something out.

The first non recap moment is with Sam and Frodo hiking through Emyn Muil and finally being approached by Gollum.  You could have two or three small scenes with them hiking through different areas.  Rocky, marshy, mountainous, etc.  I won't dwell on those.

The next set could be the Uruk-hai carrying Merry and Pippen around.  But again, lots of minifigs, little set pieces.  It's a major story point but hardly worth building.

Edoras - Next is our introduction to Rohan.  The Rohirrim live in Edoras, a hard scrabble town on top of a rocky outcropping in the middle of the plains of Rohan.  Two sets here, maybe.  One, the Great Hall and the town itself.  The later is only slightly featured, the former might be a good place to introduce Eowyn and Grima and maybe the possessed Theoden.

There are some more bits with Uruk-hai and Merry and Pippen, as well as Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn meeting  the outcast Eomer and his riders, but nothing that you couldn't do on your own with all the minifigs.  I think the biggest next set would have to be...

Treebeard - Now, you could build a lot of ents, in fact someone already has, and done it quite well.  But this would be a good first set.  Treebeard, Merry, Pippen and an orc.  Put in some background trees for scene building.

Next is some more of Frodo and Sam walking around with Gollum.  Next good scene would be when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli meeting Gandalf the White.  I only say this because the fight with the Balrog on Durin's Tower that Gandalf talks about would be an epic set.

At this point we have the Black Gate.  This could go back and forth.  The black gate shows up twice, right now when Sam and Frodo almost go inside, and then later in The Return of the King in which now King Aragorn leads a pitiful army against it.

Warg Riders - It may seem I've jumped a lot but between the Black Gate and the Warg Rider attack on the caravan, there really isn't anything new.  It's a lot of talking in established locations.  The wargs would be great mounts for minifigs, but I imagine they'd need a special mold not unlike the dewbacks from Star Wars. I can see a set like that with three wargs with orcs, three horses with Theoden, Aragorn and maybe Legolas/Gimli.

Helm's Deep - Get this out of the way now.  Helm's Deep is THE set piece of this film.  Deforested Isengard with attacking ents aside, this is the big battle.  Now, everything in LOTR is epic, so it's not like you can have a set with a giant castle, 300 elves, 1,000 men and 10,000 uruk-hai.  My guess is it'll be a large castle set with a minifigure representing each race.  Haldir would be there, or at least an elf.  You'd have a couple uruk-hai, maybe a couple orcs.  The castle itself would be really big, but you'd have to leave room for a couple points.  1) The wall.  2)  The ramp to the gate.  3)  The side door next to the ramp.  4)  A way to bring down the wall.  You also might want to include those rad grappling catapults Saruman's army used to bring up the big ladders.  Yes the battle doesn't take place till later, but I don't think chronology is going to be important.

Meeting with the ents - Merry and Pippen should be around while the tree herders say "Good Morning."

I jumped around a little but the next set I think would be doable would be where Frodo and Sam run into Faramir while his Gondorian Rangers ambush some southland soldiers and their Oliphaunts.  Now, Oliphaunts would be great to build, but it'd be like building an AT-AT.  These aren't just elephants, they'd need to be able to hold several solders on their back, and stomp on a horse.  The creator series Lego put out had some dinosaurs so I think that could be done.

Ranger hideout - Faramir takes Frodo and Sam back to their cave HQ, grill them about their mission, and capture Gollum.  Maybe a nice pool with some rocks around it and a few minifigs.

Osgiliath - The river garrison can be used many times.  First Faramir shows up with Sam and Frodo and later releases them.  There's the flashback when Boromir retakes the city.  Then there's the battle in Return of the King in which Faramir and his troops are over run from the east.  But the "city" is a ruins of what once was a fortress sitting across the Anduin.  It was there to prevent anything coming out of Mordor from reaching Minas Tirith.  So what can a set be?  It can be full of Gondorian soldiers or rangers.  It can have Frodo and Sam and Gollum and a few Nazgul and Faramir.  It can have a river setting with orcs and boats.  You could probably get a couple sets out of it.

Which leads to two final battles scenes.  Helm's Deep in which the Rohirrim riders arrive with Gandalf and Isengard where the ents lay siege to a vacated Orthanc.

To me these are all so epic that you could spend years building little one off sets that display moments of the story, but in order to truly capture the quality of the story, even the scene sets would have to be epic.

(continued next in part 3, Return of the King.)


It was announced today that The Lego Group has entered into a partnership with Warner Brothers to produce construction toys based on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

This comes as little or no surprise to Lego aficionados and fans of both the toy and the films.  Ever since TLG picked up the rights to do Star Wars back in 1999, it's been a foregone conclusion that successful and geek related media were going to be rendered in studded brick and minifigures.  Since then, we've seen Spider-Man, Batman, Spongebob, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, even Winnie the Pooh and Bob the Builder.

As exciting as this news is, and as much as I knew it was coming, I have some trepidation about seeing the Tolkien universe in Lego form.  With Star Wars it made sense.  Even with Harry Potter and Pirates it made sense.  Even with Spongebob it made sense.  What sense am I talking about?  Well, it's hard to describe, but it comes down to playability, or the Swoosh Factor.

As a fan and builder and collector of Lego since 1979 (go ahead and look it up, there's nothing supporting that) I've come to expect Lego to give me a sense of modular playability.  I want there to be a theme, but items within that theme that can do as well by themselves as they can within the group.  I'd like there to be a single set that's really cool and something I can play with, but that also is in line with other sets that are cool and can be played with.  Some of my favorite sets are space themed.  They are ships that you can fly through the house, land in the back yard, explore a bit, then fly off again.  Cars and trucks and planes from the City line are equally as enjoyable.  Star Wars spaceships (with some design problems) are of the same ilk.

The sets I have a problem with are scene sets with little function.  Sets that have a couple minifigs and a set behind them.  Two Jedi and a door.  A ninja, a skeleton and a tree.  A couple pirates and a treasure chest.  Sure it still promotes building and creative playing, but the piece count is really small and at that point the playability is limited.  There's only so much you can do with a tree or a door.  Those types of things are backgrounds, the things the main characters and the cool vehicles or ships go PAST on their way to the fun stuff.

In this same vein, I think Star Trek would make a horrible Lego line.  Star Trek in all forms is a giant hotel in space.  Rather than the drama coming and going from the single location, the location now moves from story to story.  Sure a giant model of the Enterprise or Deep Space Nine or a few shuttles would be kinda cool, but outside of that what you do?  Random Vulcan locations?  Starfleet Academy barracks?  Iowa?  Star Wars was perfect for Lego because the ships and robots were just as much part of the story as the characters.

The Lord of the Rings is a great story and was the best fantasy movie ever.  However, when this discussion came up a while back, I found myself trying to get excited about Lego versions and failing.  Sure the property is a treasure trove of minifigures and the games themselves will undoubtedly be insanely enjoyable (you can bet your plastic-molded ass I'll be getting them) but in terms of sets I'm not sure what will happen.  I think it'll be somewhere between the Castle line and the annoying small scene sets.  Let's break down a likely list of sets they might have.

Bag End - You have to know that from the beginning there's going to be a small round door set in a hillock.  You'll be able to remove the roof and see inside and play with Bilbo and Frodo, or Bilbo and Gandalf.

Gandalf's Cart - As much as making minifigs of hobbit children will require legs that are too small even for Lego to mold, this is a great scene set for Gandalf.  Some fireworks and Frodo to go along with it.

Bilbo's Party - A tent, some benches, some random hobbits, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Frodo and Bilbo.

Bucklebury Ferry - I've skipped Farmer Maggot because we don't see him in the movie.  Right to the small skiff that takes the hobbits across the Brandywine.  All four, plus a Nazgul.

Bree - Or at least the Inn of the Prancing Pony.  Since no other places in Bree were mentioned in the movie, and since the Barrow Downs were skipped entirely, the only place in between the Shire and Rivendell worth mentioning is Bree, and the only place in Bree worth mentioning is the Inn.  So, basically you'd have a tavern, but it's the first sighting of the minifig Strider/Aragorn.

Weathertop - This might be one of the best sets so far.  At the top of a large hill lies the ruins of the watchtower of Amon Sul.  Now, the Lego group will call it Weathertop, but just remember it's not.  The hill itself is Weathertop, the ruins are Amon Sul.  Either way, we'll have Aragorn, all four hobbits and all the Nazgul on foot.  The set would be a pretty nice Stonehenge type scene.

The ride to Rivendell - Frodo is hurt and needs to be carried swiftly by Arwen.  So you'd have her, a scene with a river and trees, some Nazgul and a way to build water horses out of Lego.

Rivendell!! - Oh what to do, what to do.  It's such a pretty place and so sparsely populated.  You almost never see anyone there, but when the elves are leaving for Valinor there are dozens just marching along the forest paths.  Here is our first look at the minifig of Elrond.  Rivendell could have at least two sets, a recovery room for Frodo and a meeting place for the secret council.  The secret council would just be an orgy of minifigs (including now Legolas and Gimli and Boromir) around a round table.  Throw some arched backgrounds and voila!

I realize at this point were I to keep going I'd have way too many sets, but considering how many Star Wars had, I think I'll at least finish The Fellowship of the Ring.

The nine companions leave Rivendell (and don't think there wouldn't be just a set released of just nine minifigs) and head east.  Their ultimate goal is of course getting the ring to Mordor to have it destroyed, but their most immediate destination is Moria.  If you remember the movie, they couldn't go south and the other passes over the Misty Mountains were watched.  So at first they tried to go over...

Redhorn Pass -  In the movie Gandalf calls it the Pass of Caradhras, but good luck getting kids to say that.  This is the snowy pass in which Saruman sends a blizzard to try and kill the Fellowship.  Good excuse to include a lot of white bricks for a snowy path and an "action" event causing an avalanche.

The Gates of Moria - Moria is going to have a lot of sets, lots of battles, lots of monsters.  Our first is the Western Gate.  This is the riddle magic door that stymies the party for a while and then they are attacked by the Watcher in the Water; a giant tentacled beast that nearly kills a few hobbits and ends up trapping the Fellowship in the mines.  Based on Lego's Atlantis line, I think they've got tentacles licked.

The Chamber of Mazarbul - This is the room in which the Fellowship fights a horde of orcs and a cave troll. It's a records room and has the tomb of Balin, Gimli's cousin.  This could be a very big set with lots of little traps and stuff.  Also a minifig heavy set.  Come to think of it, through most of this movie, you'd be getting at least 9 minifigures.  Maybe they'll do the Fellowship as their own set and then you just take them with you through all these other sets.

Durin's Bridge - Or the Bridge of Kazhad-dûm is a narrow stone bridge.  It is here that the party must cross to get to the Eastern Gate and out of the mountain.  It is here that Gandalf faces off against the Balrog (which should be an epic construct in Lego) and is dragged down into the abyss after he shatters the bridge sending the Balrog down.  The set would of course collapse when triggered.

* There's also a scene in the movie built for suspense and comic lines.  The stair way scene after they encounter the host of orcs and the first tremors of the Balrog's steps.  The stairs are precarious and they end up crumbling as orcs fire arrows at the party.  Would make for a good Lego set.

After this the 8 travel to Lothlórien.  They meet Haldir who takes them to Caras Galadhon to meet Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn.  There could be some sets here, Lorien Encounter in which we meet Haldir and a couple elves.  The Great Tree where they meet Galadriel and Celeborn, the mirror in the water scene with just Frodo and Galadriel (in which she's tempted and totally freaks out) and the departing scene in which all the party get cool gifts.

Argonoth - They take their boats down the Anduin to the Argonath, two enormous statues of kings warning travelers.  No action here, but man it'd be cool to build those two statues.

Battle on the Anduin - Although they are away from the river, there are a couple scenes here.  One is with Frodo and Aragorn on top of a weird structure that has no name in the movie but seems perfect for holding one of the seeing stones.  It's here Frodo flees and Aragorn starts fighting Uruk-hai.  The other is Boromir valiantly defending Merry and Pippin.

Then finally we have Sam almost drowning in the Anduin.

So, not a bad selection of sets, but I think they're going to be HEAVILY influenced by the minifigures, which means, for those not to up on Lego prices, they will be very expensive.  Licensed product line + Lots of minifigs = money I don't have.

(continued later for The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again.)


Yes, I realize I'd completely forgot about Saruman and Gandalf's fight in Orthanc.  I think there could be a few Orthanc sets but the one where they grow Urak-hai from interbreeding men and orcs should probably be left off.  However, a giant eagle saving Gandalf would be pretty awesome.


Remember Remember to Write in November

Forgive me Internet, it's been nearly two months since my last post.

For penance I will say 5 Nyan Cats and 10 Honey Badgers.

Of the myriad things going on in the world that is the Crazy Realm of the Austin Goofnuggets, I will say the biggest being Ms. A and Ms. El Paso flew to NYC and got married.  Yay!  We're all super happy for them and while it's worth a snowflake's chance in the Bahamas, we'll support efforts to make it legal in Texas.  You know, the last place gays will ever be legally allowed to be married.

That aside, we are all busy, relatively happy and I would say health but that's not the case.  I'm currently under the influence of a debilitating head/chest ailment I can only label The Devil's Grip.  I likely got something from Tiger Lily who had Viral Laryngitis.  If you don't know TL, she has a cute little nerd girl voice WITH a lisp.  To have her communicate by squeak on top of it has sent me into a diabetic tailspin with all the sweetness.  Additionally, G-man is seeing a new doctor for his breathing issues.  He now has a new inhaler with a pre-breathing chamber so he doesn't have to time it breathing in the medicine.  It's kind of neat actually.  His reading and writing are still problematic but we're all doing our part to help him.  Little Miss Austin is earning money doing chores, being a good big sister and taking on more responsibility including walking home from school with her little brother and being home till a parent arrives.  It's done wonders for her attitude and all the adults agree she's quite nice to be around the last few weeks.

Yes we saw the Muppets a little early.  TL got some passes from her job at Austin Film Festival.  We got ahead of the line AND saw the movie early; it was a good time and the movie was fantastic.  I won't spoil it for anyone but I will say it was very wholesome, cheesy and funny, just like early Muppet endeavors.  I don't know for sure if they're going to use this to launch a new show, but I'd watch it if they did.  I hope the movie does well and I can't wait for the kids to see it.  I'd let them watch this over most things on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon right now.

Austin Comic Con was this last weekend as well and TL and I went and spent a few hours walking aimlessly around trying to simultaneously look for good buys and restraining ourselves from buying everything we saw.  The shirt I had on was a big hit, which is any fanboy's dream come true.  You wouldn't believe the number of nerd shirts there, and very few repeats.  TL and I got a couple more shirts and a book put out (edited) by a mutual friend.  I wanted to get figures and toys and nerd hockey jerseys but I knew I couldn't justify anything but the most minor purchases.

But it did get me thinking, as I walked through Artist Alley:  I should bring the Robot Portraits to the comic con or Staple.  I think they'd be a hit and I could probably do 10 or so while sitting at a table.  The problem is that I don't have a book or anything else to sell other than custom portraits.  I'll have to think about it more, but we're already planning on going to Dragon Con next year in full costume and I think my time will be spent making those over the next year.

Speaking of costumes, TL and I were Muppets again this year.  Her Kermit was really well done, my Fozzie (and yes that's supposed to be Fozzy and not that old country kitch desinger from Trading Spaces) was half assed at best.  Without Kermit around people had no idea who I was, much like last year.

Up next, TL is graduating from UT in December and is currently looking for a job.  She'll need to work till next fall at which point she'll go to graduate school.  I'm still drawing robots.  We've not done with Lego lately but it's all still there.  We kind of dropped out of working with the Lego User Group in Texas because, well, frankly, the people running it are assholes.  What little we've dealth with them has not been amicable and it seems that unless you're a pushy, know-it-all old white guy, you're not going to fit in.  We've already agreed that the convention next year (in Houston) is not going to be something we do.  However, we may eventually go to Brick Con in Seattle.

That's all for now.  I'm in Server 2008 training all week.  So much fun, but at least I'm learning.

Carry on.


The Kia is dead. Long live the Kia.

Hmm, Tempting

A person's car is a unique object in the history of humanity.  It's terribly expensive but it only serves one purpose; to get us places faster and at a farther distance than our feet could travel.  The nicer and newer the car, the higher in social status we are perceived.  The type of car you have gives a brief (and perhaps incorrect) glimpse into the type of person you are.  Not only are cars expensive to initially purchase, but they could require financing and subsequent upkeep.  For the average person, it's next to only a house in cost and maintenance and equally ranked in terms of headaches and hassles.

Cars are meant to break, they are designed to last a certain time.  Cars are complex machines that are becoming more so as we discover new gadgets to cram inside.  In the span of a century, an automobile went from a hand-cranked engine barely able to haul two people around to massively powerful engines with computer brains smart enough to handle multiple driver settings, driving conditions and even satellite communication and self diagnostics.  The cars today are smarter than their drivers.

At least smarter than I am.  I didn't change my timing belt when I should have and it cost me.  It broke while I was driving with Tiger Lily.  The engine shut off and wouldn't start.  For those that don't know, when your timing belt breaks, if you are driving, the pistons and cylinder heads tend to smash into each other like they're trying to find the Higgs Boson.  So now my Kia is basically a collection of wires and metal framing around some chairs. I'm selling it for parts.

It's not entirely a horrible situation.  The car needed a lot of work, most of which I couldn't afford anyway.  At last check it needed new gaskets, shocks, brakes, HVAC blower motor, belts apparently, a quarter panel window and CV joints.  The cost to repair this new problem was more than the car was worth, not to mention the rest.  I'm able to carpool with Tiger Lily thankfully and ride my bike.  This will give me an opportunity to take this money I get for selling it, save monthly on car insurance and start saving for a new car in about a year and a half, if not longer.  Considering I can't save much per check, it's a good thing that happened.

Plus, it happened on a weekend near a parking lot.  If we hadn't taken my car then, I would have taken it to work on Monday and died in the middle of the highway.  So I guess fortune smiles on even the stupid and mechanically disinclined.

So in 18-24 months I should be getting a new car, maybe a Kia Soul.  Green.

Carry on.


We're All Fine Here, Now, Thank You.

Well, the big news of the year, Ms. A and I are officially divorced.  The comes as a surprise to no one as most people who follow us on Facebook and Twitter or phone calls or texts or in person knew this.  Which is why it won't get much mention here.  I will say there are things I need to do as a newly minted but vintage single person.  I had to change my health benefits, will have to change my IRS filing, get new car insurance, etc.  The biggest thing on the horizon now is either fix or replace my car.  I have 2001 Kia Sportage and while it's not in great shape it runs pretty well.  And by pretty well I mean it starts, takes me to work and doesn't explode.  It needs a lot of work but I've had it for 10 years now and as someone mentioned to me it's probably not worth sinking a lot of money into it if the better condition resale is less than the amount I use to fix it over the poorly condition resale.

That said, Ms. A has been working tirelessly to fix both of our credit from the problems we've had with the house on Rodeo and a couple cars.  Losing jobs is never a good thing and the years between 2004 and 2007 were not great on our credit.  Hopefully we've made some progress and I can actively look into buying a new car; maybe a Kia Sol, I've been eyeing those for a while.

The problem is, most of my paycheck goes toward child support.  I have enough set aside for me for what I need but it was taking into account a paid off car.  If I get a new one I don't know that I can afford it.  I don't know a dealership will sell me one if they know how much I actually take home.  Hopefully I can qualify for a nice reasonable monthly payment and we'll just go from there.

But this isn't why I wanted to write today.  I'm a Star Wars nerd after all and today is the release date for the prequel trilogy on Blu-Ray.  I got to thinking after I got the DVD Empire email (way to stay relevant guys) and read the tagline "Own Every Moment."

My problem with the constant tweaks and changes to the Star Wars movies is not so much a financial one but an artistic one.  If it was merely a media update (Laserdisc?) I'd understand, but each new update contains new scenes, changes to lines, additional bits that may not have made it originally.  I'm not talking about an extended edition like Lord of the Rings, but severe changes that shape the way the movie is perceived.

Imagine you bought Stephen King's "The Stand."  Years later the industry changes and you can listen to an audio version on tape, but King has gone in and changed some parts.  It's still roughly the same story but let's say that instead of the superflu accidentally getting out, it's was allowed to get out.  Instead of the Army developing the virus, it's a virus they found on an asteroid.  Okay, no big deal.  Buy the tapes.  A few years later the industry changes again, you can download it on your computer.  King rewrites it again and insinuates that Mother Abigail isn't a spirit of good, but a robot sent back in time by the survivors' descendants to ensure that Flagg is stopped.  Pretty neat twist, makes you think about the story differently but it's still the same plot.  Buy it again.  Now it's 2007 and Amazon releases the Kindle, makes it easier to buy, store and read books.  It's a huge sensation and King releases "The Stand" again, but this time he adds a character, The Moon Man.  Tom Cullen thinks everything is spelled M-O-O-N because he's in fact a servant of an even more evil character that's been controlling Flagg the whole time.  Tom has escaped but at the cost of his mental faculties.  His constantly spelling "moon" is the only thing that remains and is a clue the others need.  Randall Flagg isn't the big bad guy any more, Abigail's a robot and the superflu is an alien lifeform, not a bioengineered military project.

Do you still by the book?  Does it matter to you now that it's delivered in a technology some would argue is superior than the original?

I know the prequels haven't changed since they were released and my "The Stand" analogy isn't perfect, but the idea remains the same that after all these years, the technology is changing the story.  What limited the story in the first place and espoused by its creator as just a vehicle to tell the story is now changing the story with each new iteration or media type.

I won't be buying the Blu-Ray.  I will be dusting off my VCR and watching the original (but not quite the original) VHS tapes until TVs no longer accept RCA cables.


Rise of the Urban Eagle is out!

Rise of the Urban Eagle
Written By Ed Gehres, Jr.
Illustrated by Ben Rollman
Release Date: August 2011
A book and activity application designed specifically for children, this is a story about an unlikely hero. It features both a fully illustrated story and three separate games and activities all in the same application. Download of the application is free. Pay only for the content that you and your children like and want. Designed for children ages 5-12.
For more information visit the Rise of the Urban Eagle page on the Apple AppStore.


Review - Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon

Okay, Mr. Bay.  You've had your fun.  I'm not going to give you any more of my money.  In three films, we've seen robots peeing on humans, giant monster bots with wrecking ball testicles, obvious racist stereotypes and Shai LaBeouf.

What weighs on me the most is the complete literary ineptitude from the movies.  With the exception of Sam and the soldiers, the characters are pointless.  It's a story about sentient robots bringing their war to Earth and we don't know a thing about the personality of the robots other than they like to fight.  We get three movies of Sam and his family and  his girlfriend(s) being snarky and bantering back and forth about masturbation and marriage and discipline and job markets as though there aren't 50 foot robots blasting at each other right above their heads.

I'm trying not to compare this to the original cartoon, or the later cartoons or the movie from the 80's but it's hard not to.  Each film introduces new links that Humans and Cybertronians share from their pasts.  Each movie has Sam in the middle of the bad guys trying to take over the universe via Earth.  Each movie has a hot chick, Sam's parents, some annoying but human size robots and lots of explosions.  What they don't have is a good direction.  I felt like the screenplay was written at an elementary school workshop.

The story idea is fine, the plot for each is shaky but not horrible.  What bugs me is the idea that a collection of disparate characters and situations somehow makes the human side of the story entertaining.  Well, it doesn't. It makes us look like fumbling idiots who can't keep track of our own history.  We'd rather worry about money and status despite the existence of alien life.  I want to see a story about the robots from Cybertron.  Don't make me care about Sam or his parents or Patrick Dempsy or John Tuturo.  I want the giant robots to the be the characters, not the sweaty, stupid, weak humans.  I know their story.  I saw it in Independence Day, and Battle for Los Angeles and Mars Attacks and the other million invasion stories.  I want to know about the giant fucking robots that turn into cars and planes and guns and tanks.  Isn't that cool enough?  Isn't the Autobot's fight the same as our fight?  I don't want flashbacks and exposition, I want the actual fight that doesn't involve Josh Duhamel and his intrepid squad of unkillable humans.

I know the cartoons all had human characters, they were on Earth after all.  I just get tired of thinking that in light of an invasion by giant robots, what humans do still frickin matters.  That after eons of fighting, Sam can do what the Autobots couldn't, and that they rely on him.  It's cute, but these are giant robots.  I still don't understand why Sam matters so much.  The script writing makes us seem stupid and the screenplay makes the robots look inept.

In the end I'll take my 1986 movie over anything Bay has done.  Recognizable characters, solid story telling, a plot with fewer holes and Leonard Nimoy.  Oh wait, he was in this too?  But I swear I heard a Star Trek line. (Yeah, that was horrible.)


Brick Fiesta 2011

Sold Out
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Brick Fiesta has come and gone. It was a fantastic event. We weren't able to participate in all of it because we had some other plans as well. There was a lot going on so I'll just try to recap the high points for us.

The convention received a boost from local TV and newspaper coverage. The first day sold some 700-800 passes and the next day that was at least doubled. The line at one point was an hour and a half and the available tickets sold out about 1:30. Toward the end people were let in free only because there wasn't a lot of time to see everything. It may have upset some parents with expectant kids wanting or thinking they'd just pop in and look, but over all I think it was successful.

Our UT Tower did pretty well considering the competition. At one point we were third over all in the architecture category and someone mentioned we were 6th in the public voting. We were nominated for the final voting round and we're very happy with that.

We participated in a parts draft with about 10 people and got some great parts. It was a lot of fun.

There was an amazing group of MOCs of all types. The photos, as usual, don't do it justice. The level of detail made me want to just spend dozens of minutes with each model. The usual big names in Lego were there but it was great to see young builders doing exceptionally well. One young man took home four awards for his Batman statue and winning a speed building contest.

We didn't see but one speaker or participate in the games or other competitions but we heard it was quite entertaining.

At one point while volunteering at the registration table, I sold a ticket to Bob Schneider and his son. I was struck not so much by the fact that it was him as much as he wanted to come see all the Lego. Yay nerds!

TL and I already have plans for what to build next year, but for now we're going to do some much needed sorting and I have a lot of drawing and studying to do. So in a way I'm glad it's all over.

Click the embedded picture to see more shots from the event. There may be more in the Brick Fiesta group later.

Here are some news clips.






Father's Day

Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Greetings all! Another Father's Day has come and gone and I thought I'd use this opportunity to update anyone reading this as to what's going on in the lives of the weirdest family in Austin.

To start, I'm still working on the children's book. It's called Rise of the Urban Eagle and it's a story about a young pigeon who learns a life lesson from his father about always doing your best. I'm in the coloring stages of the book now and hopefully will be done with it in a few weeks. There will be a free copy available with more features to unlock in the paid version.

Taking summer classes, actually just class. Ms. A is taking a couple classes as well. My course is Intro to Literature and after reading some of the fiction in the text book, it should be renamed "A Reason Not To Get Into Literature" or "How ACC Made Me Hate Reading." Some of these stories, while "classic" are just abysmal to read, but I suppose are there to make you think about reading and writing and analysis of literature. It's certainly not terribly enjoyable, but rather than be branded a cretin, I'm just going to roll with it. It's a needed class.

Adventure Summer 2011 continues for the kids as they have already completed one round of swim lessons and are also enrolled in gymnastics and karate. LMA has advanced in swimming so much the only thing she can do now is join the swim team in middle school, which she has said she doesn't want to do. The ladies take them on scooter to area pools during the day and on weekends to make sure they get out and do stuff. We've restricted video games and TV to almost nothing. However, with Austin reaching almost 108 yesterday I'm seriously reconsidering that stance.

To that end, the kids are always at each other's throats and we're especially worried about LMA. We've tried everything we can think of and it's likely time for some therapy at the very least so she can talk with someone who isn't her parents. I don't like this idea mainly because it feels like I've failed as a parent but as Ms. A has said before, she'll do whatever it takes to make sure LMA is happy and healthy. I get some EAP through work for a few sessions and then I think it's partially covered after that so we'll see what happens.

Tiger Lily and I are doing wonderfully. She took a trip to France with some friends and had a great time. Her sister is in town for the summer for an internship so the two of them will be able to spend some time together.

Brick Fiesta is fast approaching. If you haven't made plans to be here, that's a good an excuse as any. TL and I will have a couple MOCs up and the whole thing should be a lot of fun. If you're in Austin at the end of June, make the trip to the South Omni Hotel and come find us and say hello.

Father's Day was really nice. I got to sleep in while everyone else made breakfast for a change. Got a nice book about Geek culture, got to have some quiet time to do homework and draw and I watched some crappy movies on TV. Wasn't bad.

Hope you are all having a good summer. Carry on.


Happy 7th

7 years ago, some time in the afternoon, little G-man came into the world.  7 years is a long time to try and remember every detail about those early years and how we felt and thought and behaved.  I don't remember G-man being a problem child.  I remember his immediate bouts with jaundice and then RSV, an issue that's turned into his asthma and propensity for allergies.  Aside from that, he slept well, smiled a lot, gave a lot of hugs and really just wanted to be around people.

Not much changed, honestly, as you can see in the photo.  G is a sweet boy with the desire to do only a handful of things; play games on someone's phone, give long, clinging, unbreakable hugs, and make sure everyone is playing.  He's tapped into a vast store of energy that all little kids do and he's barely able to contain it.  He must jump and run and sing and whistle and play at all times.  If he can't, I think he explodes, but we haven't tested the limits.

He and his sister are, while not exact copies of their parents, very close replicas.  Where LMA is more forward thinking, emotional and tactical, G-man seeks homeostasis and just wants everyone to be happy and sweet.  He also prefers to put on a show for anyone who will watch, whether it's a planned drama with his sister or just hamming it up because people will watch him.  In that he is very much like me.  But I see good things for him in the future, provided someone doesn't take advantage of his good nature.  I think, like me, he will be happiest when others are happy and the most blue when he's alone.

I don't miss him as a baby or a toddler.  I lived through it and while I don't remember details, I don't feel like he's growing up too fast.  I always feel like he's been 7 forever or that last year he had been 6 forever and so on.  I'm worried that soon he won't let me snuggle with him or tickle him just so I can hear his laugh, but for now he's my favorite little boy.

Happy birthday G!


Happy 10th

LMA turns 10 today.  All I can say is, "Oh my god, ten years?"

Yeah, ten years.  I can't really say much more about it.  She constantly amazes me.  She and I don't get along all the time, but I try to be her friend and I hope that when she's older she can say she was a happy child.  Happy birthday little lady.


Spring Update

Hey folks, long time.  Rather than apologize about the delay between posts or get creative with introductions, let's just jump right into it.

First the big news:  I've been commissioned to draw a children's book for the iPad.  Now, it's not that Apple contacted me, but rather a return client is developing an e-book for the iPad.  It's a children's book that has games and reading tutorials.  I'm doing all the artwork.  It pays well and I get some exposure and experience.  This is my first children's book and after this I can say I've been officially published.  It's been a lot of work but well worth it so far.  If  it does well, there's likely room for more books down the road.

Second, I'm also the featured artist for May at Bored in the Basement, a shirt site.  An online friend suggested me to the site/shop manager and off we went.  I did one new design and regurgitated some old ones as the book was taking up all my time.  Shirts are on sale through May at least, so go check it out.

TG and I just got back from Festival International in Lafayette, LA.  It was loads of fun.  We volunteered for two of the days and got nifty shirts.  We also were able to see a few really interesting and fun bands, drink festival punch and eat wonderful food.  Most of the weekend was spent at the festival so we didn't do much else while we were out there.  We each brought work to do (studying, drawing) so even while we were listening to music we were hard at work.

On the home front, Ms. Austin took a trip to Mexico with her lady friend and they tied the knot.  The ceremony was done by an Mayan holy man and they came back with rings and smiles and lots of stories.  She needs a site name for LIA, (Ms. El Paso?) and you might see pictures on Flickr.  Those in the know already know.  I've been slowly moving stuff out of the house and into TG's apartment (where I spend half my time) and so far everyone is quite happy.

Lil Miss Austin and Pilgrim are coming up on their birthdays.  LMA is going to be 10 which means she's almost not a Lil' anything any more.  They're growing like weeds and both are enjoying school but definitely looking forward to not being in it for the summer.  No big summer plans yet, though there's talk of going to San Diego as a big ol' weird family.  We'll have to see how that goes.

TL was honored at UT as a Distinguished Student and she will likely graduate (in December) in the top 2% of her class.  We're all very proud.  Her sister, Ms. A's ex just moved to Albuquerque were she plans on going back to school.  I've signed up for another class this summer and Ms. A is still taking classes at Texas State.  We're all so very studious.  Hopefully someone will get a good job out of all this.

Robot drawings are still in demand (though very rare) and the Lego convention is looming.  The kids and Ms. A are planning on another adventurous summer so there's a lot to look forward to.

Carry on.


Trying New Things

Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Last Friday Tiger Lily and I were invited to a party at Cebuana Filipino Store in south Austin. They were playing host to a shoot for a pilot that will be seen (hopefully) on the Cooking Channel. (Which, I'm not really sure about the Cooking Channel. I think it's a spin off of the Food Network.)

Friends of ours visit the store regularly and are friends of the owners. They regularly go shop and eat there and sing karaoke. Cebuana is a market, street restaurant, video rental store and karaoke bar. It's also about the size of my dining and TV room. So having it beset by about 100 people was pretty intense.

The food that was there to eat was mostly rice and coconut recipes but it was all outstanding. The rice, chicken and ginger soup was amazing. And do yourself a favor and find some pork siopao right away.

The TV crew was three hours late. They were apparently filming at several places and were just behind schedule. The market had put out a really impressive spread of Filipino food but it was all gone by the time the crew got there. What was left was some tinikling (bamboo stick dance) and candle dancing. After that it was the balut eating contest. Our friend was in the contest, being the only girl involved.

By the way, balut is a delicacy but it's a delicacy that sounds like it's from Indiana Jones. Balut is 15-20 day germinated duck eggs that are boiled. Yes I ate one. They taste like hard boiled eggs, which I don't like anyway. But it wasn't that it tasted bad, it was quite good. If you like hardboiled eggs, you'd love belut.

So our friend had to eat as many of these large hard boiled embryonic duck eggs in three minutes as possible. She ate 11. She beat two other guys and tied one other. She one some gift money to the store (which she promised to use to take us all out) and a shirt. The host of the show tried one too and then made everyone else who'd never had one to try it.

By then it was near midnight. We'd arrived at 7:45 thinking we'd be late. The film crew was off again to film yet another bit at a Moroccan restaurant. While we were eating cake we noticed they left a camera behind and had we not run after them as their cars were pulling away they'd have left without it. Our indie zombie movie was almost made that night.

All in all it was a lot of fun. There was a lot of standing around feeling obnoxiously in the way, but we acclimated and truly enjoyed the experience. I even sang karaoke.

Carry on.


Cross Posting Robot

(originally posted over on Robot Portraits.)

A couple years ago, I moved to Pflugerville, TX with my family.  We'd lived in Austin for a couple years but got burned on the last house we bought and decided to rent outside of Austin.  As we were moving in, a neighbor came over to help.  He was really nice and we'd talked a couple times about what each of us did for a living and for fun.  After that we stopped talking as most Americans do; there just isn't a lot of neighbor-ness any more.

A week ago I get an email from someone asking if I can do a robot portrait.  They also notice that my email is in Austin and that's cool because they are in Pflugerville.  I open the attachment to see that it's my neighbor.  He'd apparently been keeping an eye on this little project for some time and had always wanted one for his friend.  So I was able to draw it and walk it over to him at which point we spent a long time talking about model making, Make magazine, Lego, sci-fi, fantasy and just general geekiness.

After spring break he said he'd bring his trebuchet to the park down the street and show the kids.  The world is small and funny some times.

I didn't do a video of this drawing, but instead, here are some videos Jason and his friend Sean made of all their projects.  Yes they remind me of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.



water rocket:




Jam Jar Jet:


Potato Cannon


Carry on.


Rite of Passage

Rite of Passage
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
G-man didn't originally take to bike riding like his sister. He was very hesitant and favored the safety of his big wheel. Even his bike with training wheels was seldom used. A few months ago we finally got the training wheels off and made a few successful runs at it, but he seemed to not want to ride it still. Just recently he finally mastered the two wheeler and is now fairly unstoppable. While he's not as fast as his big sister, he's still as enthusiastic.

He also wiped out pretty hard while at the school. Too much speed coming off a sloped sidewalk and the front wheel wobbled out from under him. He hit the pavement pretty hard, right after shouting, "Daddy watch me!" So I watched as he did a belly flop onto the asphalt.

Luckily a soccer mom was driving by. (And I literally mean a soccer mom, she was taking her little girl to soccer practice.) She had an impressive first aid kit and gave us a big band-aid. G-man was in just a little pain but soldiered on home. Once safely home he limped around as though he'd just had major surgery. I gave him a little grief for that (mainly because it's worse to limp on it) but I stopped when I remembered I did the exact same thing when I crashed.

Carry on.


How Far We've Come

Yes.  We've come a long way.  In 17 short years, we've gone from individual pages, university library searches, email and pictures hosts to...well, the same thing but with Google.

What strikes me as telling in this video is not so much the camp and quaintness of the Today show hosts not knowing what the @ symbol was, though I find this hard to believe as that symbol has been around for ages.  Those working with quantities and prices (merchants, grocers, accountants) would use @ all the time to indicate how much something was given a certain quantity.  Sandwich boards in front of small corner stores still say things like 10lbs @ $2/lb.  It's not completely unreasonable that an intelligent person, apparently not a talk show host, would know what this meant.

No, what struck me was just how violently ignorant Bryant Gumbel was.  I'm surprised he made it this far in the world of television sounding so dismissive, petty and snarky.  This isn't the first time he's seen acting this way but if you search now for "gumbel snarky" all you find is this video.  And it's like this with all talk shows.  There's always a jerk on the show who is balanced by softer spoken, chipper but equally dim-witted co-hosts.  Learning of new things and events on these shows is like learning about them from your grandparents.  It's worthy of being noted, but it will be presented with scoff and maniacal-nostalgia.

So maybe we haven't come a long way after all.


Brick Fiesta

Last year, a couple of the long time members of TexLUG decided Austin should host a LEGO convention.  There are a few LEGO cons in the US, mostly on either coast, one in Chicago.  Having one in Texas will give southerners a chance to gather, show their models and network with like-minded builders.


While these two show-runners are on the hook for all the startup costs and organizations, it's up to the rest of TexLUG to provide the manpower needed to pull this first convention off.  If you've never seen a LEGO convention in person, you're missing out.  It's a huge endeavor and the two men in charge of the operation have a lot riding on it.

I've personally never been to one.  It was only a few years ago that I started building things that didn't come in a box or with instructions.  Plus the idea of flying to Seattle (as fine as that city is I'm sure) whilst dragging my MOCs along didn't really appeal to me.  I stress enough over traveling.  Traveling with models that could fall to pieces just seemed like an exercise in frustration.

So I'm glad this started up.  I've been trying to be as involved as possible, but my efforts have been largely ignored.  I can't tell if it's because of my standing in the group or if it's just a case of being accidentally (albeit consistently) overlooked.  However, I'm going to be doing my best to help set up, break down, load, transport, educate, inform, corral and fetch.  TG and I are already planning and building our moon base display so at the very least you can come see that if you're in Austin.  At most I'll be the assistant to the guy running the Space theme and helping at the public event.

Last weekend, TG and I set up a portion of a space display, as well as our UT Tower, at the Jr. First Lego League competition.  It was our first public display and we learned a lot about how to set up, how to talk to people and what we need for next time.  It also gave us a chance to hang out with two of TexLUG's veteran members.  We talked shop and exchanged some ideas, but most of the time we were keeping small hands off the models.  Out setup included a motorized monorail and the kids LOVED to touch it.  One of the guys told me that most of the time that's not really allowed, but because this was a LEGO style event it was probably okay.  Plus our stanchion/rope line wasn't very far out.

I've very excited about Brick Fiesta.  If nothing else, I'll be able to see other models up close and hopefully help behind the scenes to make it all work.  It starts on my birthday as well, so that's what I'll be doing for those couple days.

Carry on.


Hello 2011

Donut Friday
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
A lot happened in 2010 that I'm very happy about. On average, the events of the past year were positive and productive. Each problem faced was met with acceptance and a desire to push forward. Each change greeted with optimism and excitement.

Personally I'm in a really good place, some thing I haven't felt in a while. Despite the rigors of separated parent scheduling, things are going quite smoothly and without incident. In fact, given the nature of the situation, I'm shocked more hasn't gone wrong.

There were downsides, however, from which there is no recovery. The loss of loved ones is neither easy nor simple. They leave behind memories and paperwork and property and it requires a great deal of effort and composure to wade through it all and get to a point where you can equalize.

There is a lot that will happen in 2011. Big things are planned and there are going to be more changes. Through it all I hope everyone in our family can meet the challenges head on and grow and learn from them while holding together as people who like and love each other.

I'm grateful for all the people I know that made it a wonderful year. I have no resolutions for 2011 because I don't believe I need a single day to jump start any change, and also because life will sort itself out the way it must. I'm looking forward to the next year and hope it's as exciting as the last.